This article was published in the Summer 2020 issue
by Lindee Nance, VP of Marketing, Harmons Grocery
A decade ago, if someone had asked me if I imagined myself ending up at a grocery retailer for a majority of my marketing career, I would have looked at them sideways. It’s not that I have anything against groceries—or brick and mortar for that matter. In fact, I love food. It’s a second passion and something I was really excited about when asked to join the Harmons Grocery team. It’s just that my career started out in technology and I wouldn’t have guessed that a locally owned and operated independent grocery retailer could offer so much to a B2B marketer. But it does.
A few months after coming on board, I found myself elbows deep in a few ongoing technological projects, one of which was the launch of eShop, our e-commerce experience. With a background in health information technology, I’m no stranger to what it takes to create and deliver web-based content, but what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of heavy lifting that needed to happen when we took 30,000 to 50,000 different individual products and tried to categorize, catalog, describe, and collect art to put them in an online store. To say the least, it was a task that took an entire team of people over a year to conceptualize, create, test, and deliver.
Harmons didn’t have an inventory management system that we could plug into, so we went to work building our own platform to organize and deliver the data. Everything from product descriptions, nutritional data, images, and specifications had to be created and cataloged through our system. That data then needed to be further updated based on sales frequency, seasonal availability, and ad-driven pricing fluctuations. We call the system the PIM, short for Product Inventory Management (I’m convinced that it’s a prerequisite of IT people to come up with an acronym for everything they do). eShop launched in January of 2018 with three stores and is now available in 17 of our 19 locations. We offer delivery service to almost 90 percent of the state, but what’s more incredible about eShop is the timing with which we got our service really dialed in. Pre-COVID-19, our eShop service was providing about 2,000 orders each week to our customers. Since March, our averages are closer to about 5,000 orders and represent the volume of an entire store on its own. We have completed nearly as many orders at our halfway point this year as we did all of last year combined.
In early 2018, no one could have guessed that just two years later, we’d experience the biggest disruption to our daily habits imaginable. Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 changed the way that our communities viewed grocery shopping—our associates have become essential to keeping communities supplied with needed items. Through eShop, we have been able to provide service to those who are unable to get into the store and do their shopping due to risk factors as well as to families who have experienced illness and need items delivered to their door. The service continues to grow, and we continue to find new ways to incorporate technology, but the most exciting facet to being a part of Harmons is the ability to offer such a great service to those who need it most right now.