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Retailer of the Year Southeast

E-Biz Department Leading The Way At Harris Teeter

Harris-Teeter E-Biz

At Harris Teeter, The Shelby Report of the Southeast’s Retailer of the Year, the E-Biz department encompasses a customer’s online opportunities to order groceries. According to Director Kevin Crainer, this includes ordering a sub in the deli or a full line of groceries for pickup or delivery.

Harris Teeter has been in the online space since 2001. At the beginning, it was one store that offered the services.

“It really started gaining some momentum probably about 10 years ago,” Crainer said.

When the E-Biz department was formed in 2013, about 40 Harris Teeter stores were using online services. That number is now 227, with eight more being added.

“Just about every store that can physically do it will have pickup, and if they don’t have the space to do pickup, they’ll at least have delivery,” Crainer said.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Kroger Co., Harris Teeter is in the final stages of integrating with Kroger’s systems. The process has been under way for several months.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a better system. It will allow us to roll into our fulfillment centers, which is the big play going forward,” he said. “This is all going to be delivery out of those units, so you have to tie your inventories…around the fulfillment centers to make all that work.”

By integrating with Kroger’s systems, Harris Teeter will be able to extend its footprint. Crainer said some of the areas the grocer will be entering do not have brick-and-mortar stores. He cited as an example Kroger’s Fulfillment Center in Groveland, Florida.

“They did that without stores…build your brand without having the expensive brick and mortar,” he said. “I think this is going to give us the opportunity to grow into the North and also down South and more East Coast.”

While Harris Teeter started out as a grocer in the Carolinas, it now has stores in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C., as well as in Florida and Georgia.

Customers will continue to shop online through Harris Teeter’s website or new app, which will be integrated into Kroger’s structure, according to John Robinson, director of customer marketing. He said the new system will allow Harris Teeter to “be much more creative, to move much quicker.”

The new app will offer a “seamless experience,” allowing customers to be on their laptops, their iPads or their mobile phones, “and make it as easy as possible to do that,” said Crainer, who added that he believes they will love it.

More than 50 percent of Harris Teeter’s customers prefer to use their phones for online shopping, rather than a laptop, Crainer said. The app allows ease of use for customers.

The new app will have a different look but all the attributes of the former, “just rolling into the seamless platform…you’ll be able to store your list, you’ll be able to scan items in your pantry,” Crainer said.

In another benefit of tying into Kroger’s back-end systems, Robinson said it will allow integration with Instacart, which will “really make it a lot more convenient and flexible for our customers who are interested in delivery.”

In the past, customers had to go to a partner site to order for delivery. Through the new system, customers will be able to use coupons, which was not the case in the past.

“This new system is going to allow us to accept coupons immediately, which is going to be a real win for the customer.”

VIC program

The marketing department also includes Harris Teeter’s Very Important Customer loyalty program. Through this program, Harris Teeter gains insight into customer needs, which helps the company make better decisions and create a more personalized connection with shoppers.

Robinson said the program engages in unique ways with both online shoppers and in-store customers. Among the benefits of the VIC program are weekly discounts, a fuel points program, personalized e-mail communication, access to digital coupons and sweepstakes.

These programs work in tandem to “engage with customers, to encourage them to use the VIC card so the cycle can continue.”

“When shoppers use their VIC card, we are able to better understand what they are looking for when they shop at Harris Teeter. We use that information to offer them more value and enhance their shopping experience, creating long-term customer loyalty,” Robinson said.

The grocer’s Together In Education program, which is a loyalty program benefiting local schools, is also tied to the VIC cards.

“It allows schools to work with us to incentivize their customers to shop with us and use their VIC cards,” Robinson explained. “When they do that – and they’re linked to a school and buy Harris Teeter products – then we donate money directly to the school.”

The products involved include all of Harris Teeter’s private offerings.

Shoppers can link up to five schools to their cards online or in store with numbers that correspond to the respective schools, according to Robinson.

“Local schools sign up and are given a four-digit code. They keep that code forever…we have over 5,000 participating schools,” he explained. “We work together to encourage parents and alumni, grandparents – just anybody that’s interested in the community – to link their VIC card to that four-digit school number.”

While schools maintain the same codes, VIC rewards members are able to change their school beneficiaries.

“We build around the traditional school year, August through May, then we clear it out,” Robinson said. “Customers start fresh every year, so just as their kids are moving from preschool to elementary or middle to high, or if they move neighborhoods.”

Since its inception in 1998, the Together In Education program has donated more than $32.4 million to schools within the company’s market areas.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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