About United Supermarkets
In its 103rd year of operation, United Supermarkets, LLC – d.b.a. The United Family® – is a Texas-based grocery chain with stores in 53 communities in Texas and New Mexico. A self-distributing company with headquarters and their distribution center in Lubbock, The United Family currently operates 96 stores under five unique banners: United Supermarkets, Market Street, Amigos, Albertsons Market and United Express, along with ancillary operations R.C. Taylor Distributing, Praters and Llano Logistics. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Albertson’s LLC. The United Family believes strongly in its motto of Ultimate Service, Positive Impact and Superior Performance.
The Problem: Boosting delivery efficiency while maintaining a stellar customer experience
In 2016, in response to customer requests, United Supermarkets began offering delivery, with a pledge to offer “the freshest product possible and always on time.” At first, the offering was manual and available only in Lubbock, Texas – customers could call the store to place an order, and a manager would drive it over. Volume was light, as United Supermarkets did not want to market the service heavily quite yet.
Just before Thanksgiving 2016, the company began to allow online ordering, and added curbside pickup service. “The offering then took off, even without much marketing behind it,” says Chris Farr E-Commerce Manager at The United Family.
“We knew we had to get the right tools in place to ensure a great, consistent customer experience and overall efficiency before we really started to promote it.” – Chris Farr, E-Commerce Manager, The United Family
The company expanded delivery into 14 additional markets but still didn’t throw a big marketing push behind it. “The demand was there,” says Farr, “but we knew we had to get the right tools in place to ensure a great, consistent customer experience and overall efficiency before we really started to promote it.”
For example, the delivery operations teams – located in the stores – initially used Google Maps to manually plan routes, and scheduled only two deliveries per hour to ensure all deliveries were made on time. Even though the vehicles were refrigerated, they were typically stocked with only a few deliveries at one time, and were then called back to the store for reloading. Farr believed they could easily handle more orders per hour, and make fewer reloading trips, with better planning tools. But local teams were nervous about overloading the system and negatively impacting the customer experience.
“Last-mile delivery is tough to manage without the right tools in place,” says Farr. “Google Maps doesn’t scale beyond more than a handful of deliveries.”
“People don’t realize how much technology is involved in doing this right and efficiently, from order placement to picking to delivery,” says Farr.
United Supermarkets’ most critical needs were scheduling multiple deliveries over multiple time slots, and collecting and analyzing data on time slot and vehicle utilization. He and his team evaluated several options, and ultimately went with Onfleet, the only vendor that offered everything United Supermarkets wanted, with a very low up-front cost.
Onfleet is the trusted last-mile delivery solution for thousands of companies across dozens of industries including food and beverage, retail, pharmacy, parcel and more. Onfleet’s end-to-end route planning, dispatch, communication and analytics platform handles the heavy lifting so the United Supermarkets team can focus on its customers.
Working together with Onfleet, Farr was able to quickly collect data demonstrating that United Supermarkets’ existing fleet of 22 vehicles could handle 50 percent more capacity while still maintaining on-time delivery rates. That data helped him get local managers on board for implementing Onfleet across all delivery operations.
Confidence doesn’t need a big price tag
According to Farr, Onfleet allows United Supermarkets to effectively route orders across multiple time slots without sacrificing on-time delivery metrics.
“Since adding Onfleet, we have more confidence in our capacity, and that’s translated into us providing a better service to guests while being more efficient.” – Chris Farr, E-Commerce Manager, The United Family
More efficient routing has helped reduce the delivery fleet’s fuel costs by 45 percent on an annual basis, and that was before all locations were fully on-boarded. Farr expects the savings to be higher in the coming year.
“Startup costs were minuscule,” says Farr. “Onfleet didn’t burden us with high initial cost. It’s structured to allow retailers to scale delivery and allow costs to grow with it. A few others we looked at would have required us to quadruple delivery to justify the cost. With Onfleet, the cost scales with our growth.” United Supermarkets didn’t want to pass costs along to guests so that was important to them. Onfleet’s pricing model allows businesses to pay over time without hefty upfront setup and on-boarding fees typically required of other providers, ensuring alignment with clients.
“Since adding Onfleet, we have more confidence in our capacity, and that’s translated into us providing a better service to guests while being more efficient,” says Farr. United Supermarkets now heavily promotes its grocery delivery & pickup service, and it’s seeing triple-digit year-over-year revenue increases.
Next up: United Supermarkets will be leveraging Onfleet to communicate directly with guests on the status of their order. “We have a lot of internal visibility – we’re creating an interface to share some of that with customers,” says Farr. “It’s part of our Onfleet subscription, so there’s no extra cost for us, and we think it will provide a lot of value to our customers,” who will be able to get up-to-the-minute ETAs for their deliveries and even see approaching vehicles on a map.
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