“For every item a merchandiser decides to put in a store, there’s a bunch that they can’t," Albertsons group vice president of digital product management Karl Varsanyi said on Oct. 29 during a keynote presentation at Groceryshop in Las Vegas. “There are a bunch of sellers out there with great stories to tell, but they have a really hard time getting on the shelf and being seen in the online marketplace.”
A conventional supermarket can no longer meet the needs of every shopper, Varsanyi said, particularly as they demand more organic, natural, local and specialty items. But as shoppers get more comfortable with various fulfillment models including direct shipping, same-day or next-day delivery and click-and-collect, Albertsons wants to leverage that to extend its merchandise beyond the boundaries of the store.
“We truly believe that we need to play in all of these spaces," Varsanyi said.
Albertsons is using data to make merchandising decisions on its marketplace, with the goal of creating a platform for artisan sellers that can be scaled.
“This is a place where customers can discover more," Varsanyi said. “We’re sorting things and curating things in ways that we don’t in stores or our other online properties. We’re creating a home for sellers to emotionally connect with shoppers.”
Working with small producers via the marketplace lets Albertsons identify trends the grocer can potentially bring into stores, closing the loop between physical and digital. Albertsons plans to expand the assortment beyond packaged foods to also sell wine, wellness items and pet products. Integration with the Just 4 U loyalty program is also in the works and the retailer will start a direct shipping service devoted to its own brands that will include a subscription model.
“The sellers are clearly excited and we’re excited because we’ve created an enabling platform," Varsanyi said. “The omnichannel growth possibilities are fantastic.”