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Accelerating the grocery pickup experience with Google Maps Platform

Editor’s note: Today’s guest post comes from Craig Hutler, Digital Product Manager, Kroger. To better serve its customers, Kroger began working with Google Maps Platform to create the On My Way initiative, a process to streamline the curbside pickup experience and put food into customers’ hands faster.

With an increase in customer demand for pickup, we are constantly striving to increase capacity and shorten wait times for our customers. By using Google Maps Platform to help power our On My Way initiative, we are able to implement process efficiencies and help lower our cost-to-serve. 

Improving the customer experience

When we initially launched the On My Way initiative, we reduced customer wait times and improved our cost-to-serve, a key metric that measures our ability to serve customers more efficiently. It began as a simple button in the Kroger app. When customers were ready to pick up their groceries, they could tap the button to signal their estimated time of arrival (ETA) to their local store.

In the first iteration, we relied on our customers to notify us by hitting the button when they were 15 minutes away, and their ETA would show up on a dashboard in-store. Then our associates would prepare the already-picked order. We realized that we were relying on our customers for accuracy, which meant they could actually be five minutes away (not the requested 15) when our associates are alerted. That means when the customer arrived, their groceries wouldn’t be ready.

To help solve for this, we knew we wanted to use a map that our shoppers are familiar with. We initially ran a pilot for shoppers to place pickup orders through the Google Maps app. While some shoppers liked the experience, it was hard to reach the majority of our customers.

Fulfilling orders faster 

We realized that to give customers the easiest, fastest pickup experience, we needed an integrated map within the Kroger app that allowed for a seamless shopping journey, from order through pickup. And Google Maps Platform delivered.

Now, we have an enhanced version of the pickup experience called Geo On My Way, which uses the Maps SDK for Android and Directions API. Without having to leave the Kroger app, customers can voluntarily send their device location directly to their local store at the touch of a button, giving associates an accurate ETA based on route and traffic. Ultimately, this helps optimize our in-store operations, reduce customer wait times, increase customer satisfaction, and deliver on our cost-to-serve metric.

Since implementing Directions API, we reduced our median ETA error by almost half for users who opt in to give us location permissions and engage with Geo On My Way. It also took a full minute off the time the customers wait for their groceries to be loaded into their vehicles. This functionality is now successfully deployed across every pickup location, helping us meet the needs of our customers everywhere.

Future-proofing pickup experiences

Geo On My Way has improved significantly since its early days, and we’re still iterating and optimizing to continue reducing ETA errors. In the future, we plan to use geofencing to help us gauge when customers, who have opted in to share their location with us, enter the parking lot. This should provide even more meaningful insights to our associates and improve the customer experience.

Kroger has always been about providing positive, uplifting experiences. With Geo On My Way, we’ve been able to hone in on the last mile for our customers. This initiative is about more than data and metrics. It’s about helping millions of daily customers have easy access to food, and closing the gap between our doors and their tables.

For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

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