How Albertsons Created a Pioneering Grocery Experience
Albertsons listens to their customers. That’s why they’re one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States. When their growing millennial customer base told the supermarket they wanted healthier, on-trend alternatives to the major food brands carried in store, Albertsons knew they needed to make a change. Millennial customers like to know where their products are sourced. They love artisanal and farm-to-table products. And if Albertsons didn’t offer their new customers vegan cold brew coffee, superfood supplements for cats, and hand-poured organic candles, would they shop elsewhere?
The answer was to create a first-of-its-kind grocery experience. Albertsons imagined an online marketplace where they could sell their own lifestyle brands alongside a curated selection of third-party brands. These smaller brands would not otherwise have access to this base of customers. On the other hand, the marketplace would give Albertsons the opportunity to carry items not typically stocked by supermarkets, like those handmade candles.
Albertsons’ main eCommerce operation — their online grocery store and pharmacy — runs on WebSphere Commerce, which IBM recently sold to HCL Technologies. But it became clear that this marketplace project would take far too long and cost too much with WebSphere. That was when their eCommerce solution partner, McFadyen Digital, recommended a “fast time-to-market enterprise alternative.” They bet Magento Commerce could deliver it in four months.
“The overarching motivation for creating the Albertsons Marketplace is to better serve our customers and provide them with the products they seek. The marketplace model allows us to rapidly expand our category offerings in order to give our customers this ‘endless aisle’ selection they seek,” said Subroto Chakrabarty, senior director of engineering and digital innovation for Albertsons Companies.
They saved hundreds of thousands of dollars
The McFayden and Albertsons teams started to develop the new experience as an entirely platform-based property. They integrated the Magento Commerce with Mirakl, a powerful, easy-to-set-up SaaS platform. McFayden estimates that using Mirakl versus a custom-built marketplace platform saved Albertsons “at least hundreds of thousands of dollars and six to eight months of additional development.”
Everyone involved in the project was excited. Never before has an online marketplace been created specifically to match customer demand. The result, MoreForU.com, is a locally-branded web store experience that combines the familiarity of Albertsons’ brands with a vast selection of exciting new lifestyle options. To introduce these smaller brands to customers, Albertsons created “Seller Stories,” an editorial content section integrated into their existing blog platform.
The whole MoreForU.com eCommerce store is seamlessly connected with Albertsons’ back end. There’s a single sign-on integration via LDAP with Albertsons’ existing sites and banner programs, including integration with the J4u customer loyalty platform, CSP security, and Adobe Dynamic Tag Management for analytics. This whole set-up was made possible by the API-based approach of Magento, which connects the Mirakl Marketplace platform with Stripe, their payment processor, and Avalara, the tax and rating platform.
“Albertsons selected Magento Commerce Cloud due to the fast time to market, pre-built connector to the Mirakl marketplace platform, and all of the performance and security advantages that come with a cloud-based solution,” said Subroto.
A blend of first-party and third-party products
After just four months of development, MoreForU.com was launched in mid-October of 2018. Depending on the user’s location, the marketplace is branded Acme, Safeway, or Albertsons, and carries a holistic range of products. Customers can buy organic elderflower presse or swordfish that is “caught on long line fishing gear in the colder currents of Hawaiian waters.” There’s even a link for customers to recommend products they think Albertsons should stock. Top sellers will be considered for sale in the main supermarket, making the online marketplace a useful testing ground, too.
The Seller Stories blog has become a rich content library, offering customers advice on topics including “Paleo for Beginners” and “How Toxic Are Your Cleaning Products?” — all linking to related products, naturally. The new web property has been live for just a few months, but continues to grow in the number of onboarded sellers, the numbers of SKUs offered, and the number of customers frequenting the site. Meanwhile, Albertsons’ younger customers are impressed with the blend of first-party and third-party offerings, all available through an integrated “endless aisle” experience that makes new product discovery easy.