April 8, 2004, 12:00 AM

Simon delivers better search to grocery shoppers

As its expands its product selection, online grocer Simon Delivers found it needed better search to help customers find what they wanted from the newly broadened array.


Simon Delivers is delivering on its promise to be the web grocer of choice for its core Minneapolis market, thanks in part to new search features the online retailer has been phasing in over the last several months. Simon Delivers carries more than 8,000 online SKUs. With a full range of supermarket inventory, it makes fresher produce a centerpiece of its value proposition by shortening the typical supply chain and investing heavily in what CEO Christopher Brown calls “chill chain management”-refrigeration storage technology in its warehouses and trucks-to support that.

In the past few months, Simon Delivers has been on a new product expansion binge, offering a wide array of new items such as DVDs and magazines as well as more deli items and liquors. To compete more effectively with traditional chain grocers and give more choice to its more than 70,000 customers, Simon Delivers sees expanded inventory as critical to its business plan. For instance, the web grocer now stocks more than 300 brand-name beer, wine and hard liquor items on its liquor product pages.

Butt too much choice can be overwhelming to online grocery shoppers, who are typically pressed for time and don’t mind paying extra for the convenience of doing their grocery buying over the web. To make it easier, Simon Delivers has expanded site search to give busy shoppers more ways to find and purchase the items-particularly fresh produce and meats-that they are looking for. For instance, Simon Delivers now has a page with tips on simple or advance search techniques that help shoppers reduce the time it takes to find, click and purchase groceries.

The online grocer’s internal design team and search engine management vendor, DT Search, have refined the site’s databases and search software to recognize different spellings and abbreviations. If a shopper types in “Huggy” instead of “Huggies” or “Welchs” rather than “Welch`s,” the search will still take them to the same products. To locate items faster, shoppers can also search by interactive grocery aisles, much as they can in a real store, and by new items and weekly specials.

Simon Delivers is growing. Annual web sales now total more than $70 million, and the average order value is almost $125. But Brown says better site search is key to helping customers find precisely what they need in under a few seconds. “If a customer wants a particular brand of chip and we carry it, our search functions will get them there quickly,” he says. “Customers shouldn’t have to worry about spacing, abbreviations or misspellings when they are shopping and pressed for time. A good search function will take care of that situation, and that is what ours does.”


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