Few suppliers have cracked online channel, says Sainsbury’s director

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A small minority of suppliers have really got the online channel right but it represents a huge opportunity, according to Jon Rudoe, director of online at Sainsbury’s.

Speaking at the IGD’s Trading in a Digital World event, Rudoe said Sainsbury’s was the second largest online grocery player and growing by over 20%, ahead of market growth of 15-16%.

Rudoe advised suppliers think about the online channel, ‘break it out’ as a number and look at their growth rates in online sales.

Rudoe said suppliers should understand how their products are shopped online and that it is different to how shoppers shop in store.

There are a multitude of different ways their products can be shopped online such as by a past order, search, an offer area of the site, browse etc.

Sainsbury’s, which is investing in a new online platform for launch in 2013, is at the forefront in how that online journey works, said Rudoe.

Suppliers can bring their expertise in different products to the party but they must remember the online shop is very different to a supermarket, he said.

In a store, for instance, there are few places to give extra prominence to products. Online, however, because of the multitude of ways in which product is purchased, there are far more opportunities to give increased prominence to products.

“Get it [online] top of the agenda, and understand how the customer shops your products,” Rudoe told delegates.

Rudoe outlined key reasons Sainsbury’s was winning in online retailing. They include support from the core business.

“We are very joined up and have a close alignment with the core business,” he said.

A consistent strategy is vital too, as is a strong team and leaders with experience of the Sainsbury’s business.

Great food and great value are also key attributes, said Rudoe.

Service is also hugely important. “It enables us to be very close to our customers,” he said.

Sainsbury’s operates over 200 picking locations, for example, providing 96% coverage across the UK.

Rudoe said Sainsbury’s scored highly in terms of delivering on time and what the customer has ordered.

“We’ve focused on moving that in-store availability forward and managed to make store picking work and with high levels of accuracy,” he said.

Data-based marketing via the Nectar card is another key component to winning in the online space, he added.

Personalisation is an opportunity and Sainsbury’s is providing personal offers on its website, Rudoe said.