- Albertsons is adding live chat and virtual assistance to support customers in real-time while they’re shopping for groceries via the grocer’s website or mobile app, according to a press release from Nuance Communications, which is supplying the technology.
- The artificial intelligence-powered platform will be able to respond to customer inquiries around topics including how delivery works, item availability, how to track an online order and store hours and locations.
- Albertsons tested the live chat feature at stores under its Vons banner, and is expanding it to Safeway, Tom Thumb, Jewel Osco, Albertsons, Pavilions and Randalls locations.
The launch of live digital support for online shoppers will offer an added layer of convenience and efficiency to Albertsons’ e-commerce operations, which the retailer is kicking into high gear following a major surge amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the company’s most recent earnings call, CEO Vivek Sankaran said e-commerce business grew 243% between February 25 and April 25. Additionally, Sankaran said Albertsons will bring its Drive Up & Go service to at least 500 more locations this year, with a goal of having 1,600 click-and-collect locations available by the end of 2021.
While the surge in online volume may level out as the pandemic fades, the company wants to support customers as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, the press release said. Alongside efficiency, the company’s goal with live chat and virtual assistance is to match the level of customer service that shoppers can get in-store and offer a smoother omnichannel experience.
In addition to expanding its e-commerce footprint, Albertsons has made other efforts in the last year to enhance the online shopping experience for shoppers. Last March it added location-sharing technology to its e-commerce platform so customers can track their order in real time. Albertsons is also testing micro-fulfillment in two stores, Sankaran said on the earnings call.
Live chat is still catching on among grocery retailers. Delivery service Shipt allows customers to reach out directly through live chat, and among traditional grocers, Aldi and Giant Food offer real-time assistance features. On the employee side, Sam’s Club has an Ask Sam feature on its employee app, which associates can use to assist them on the sales floor as they help customers.