Less than a year after Reasor’s Foods rolled out an online recipe system to help digital customers plan meals and buy ingredients, the tool has emerged as a powerful loyalty and e-commerce sales driver for the Oklahoma food retailer.
Shoppers who have signed up for the service, known as RecipeToTable, typically buy a larger number of items and spend more per trip than other online customers, said David Peterson, vice president of retail operations for Reasor’s. Attracted by the recipes and online influencers that define the platform, these shoppers are also significantly more likely to follow through with purchasing products they put into their online carts, come to the company’s website more frequently and spend a longer amount of time shopping on the site, Peterson said.
“They’re engaging with that content. They think it’s cool, they’re looking at more recipes, they’re putting more items in the basket. And that’s a win-win,” said Peterson, adding that shoppers who use RecipeToTable tend to browse between three and four recipes when they come to Reasor’s site to shop.
The system allows shoppers to enter details about the foods they like, allergies and other factors related to their grocery choices, then presents them with recipes that reflect their preferences. Customers can order all of the ingredients for recipes they like without having to search for them individually.
RecipeToTable, which is built on a platform from North Carolina technology startup Grocery Shopii, has attracted a steadily growing share of Reasor’s online customer base since its launch last October. Users of the platform have accounted for nearly 10% of the company’s e-commerce shoppers during the past few months, up from 8.5% earlier in 2022, Peterson said.
Reasor’s next goal is to increase the percentage of online shoppers who use RecipeToTable to 20%, he said.
“We have definitely taken a more rapid approach to give our customers a more personalized omnichannel experience, so we continue to push and get better at [building] our digital footprint across our marketplace,” said Peterson.
Treating grocery shopping as an experiential activity--experience, not a chore
Reasor’s has concluded that approaching its business — both online and in-store — as an experiential activity instead of as a chore pays off in building connections with shoppers.
“Even with inflation and the things that are happening today, our shoppers look at shopping more through discovery and more [as] entertainment than anything else,” Peterson said. “And that's the challenge. How do we market to those customers to make it fun to shop, because it's a task, especially nowadays, with prices going higher?”
Reasor’s e-commerce volume has moderated this year, and now accounts for between 4.5% and 6% of the 17-store chain’s overall sales — a level that is still triple what it saw before the pandemic began, according to Peterson. The average basket size for RecipeToTable users is $118, compared with $90 for online shoppers who don’t use the service, he said.
“We’ve really changed the way we look at our fresh areas of the store. Our meal solutions program has changed for us because of RecipeToTable [and] our digital presence in the marketplace has gotten better … we know that the shopper wants that personalization.”
Vice president of retail operations, Reasor's Foods
RecipeToTable has also helped Reasor’s shoppers manage the erosion in their spending power caused by inflation by helping them stick to buying items they actually will be able to use and avoid buying items they might not otherwise have realized they had previously purchased, Peterson said.
“Sometimes [the system] actually helps people really define their meal plan and be able to budget better,” he said.
Reasor’s, which was founded in 1963 and family-owned until it agreed to be acquired by Brookshire Grocery Co. last fall, is working to use the data it is collecting through its shoppable recipe initiative to better connect with shoppers in stores.
“We’ve really changed the way we look at our fresh areas of the store,” Peterson said. “Our meal solutions program has changed for us because of RecipeToTable [and] our digital presence in the marketplace has gotten better … we know that the shopper wants that personalization.”
Reasor’s is the first supermarket chain that Grocery Shopii has announced as a customer for its recipe-oriented e-commerce technology since the company began in 2019, but founder and CEO Katie Hotze said the company is working with other retailers that have shown interest in deploying its platform.
“I really didn't anticipate how intense it was going to be to convince a grocer to do something new and different from a tech standpoint,” Hotze said.
To build credibility with shoppers, Grocery Shopii engages with online influencers like food bloggers to entice shoppers to try its recipes and also accepts sponsorships from food producers looking to promote their products.
Hotze said the impetus for launching the company stemmed from her experience trying to find nutritious meals for her kids in a hurry. “My real tipping point was a friend of mine brought printouts of recipes to the playground and I thought, ‘This is crazy. Now I have to go write everything down and go to a store. I work. I don’t have time for this,’” Hotze said.
With that in mind, Hotze said she realized that time-pressed people like her would appreciate an online shopping tool that connected them with the components of appealing recipes that were convenient to prepare.
“You’ve got to start with the busy parents. That is the mother ship. You get them, and the rest will come,” Hotze said.
The message that grocery shoppers want a curated and personalized experience when shopping online has taken root at the highest levels of the grocery industry.
Speaking during an earnings call last month, Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran said that in the first quarter, 40% of the more than 1.2 million unique visitors to a meal-planning tool the retailer launched earlier this year used the shopping list function it includes. Sankaran attributed the trend to the elevated number of people who are working at home as well as shopper interest in cooking at home.
“The meal-planning capability inspires our customers to engage in our app more frequently as they plan, shop and prepare the recipes we offer,” Sankaran said.