Grability’s White Label Grocery App Gives Superama Shoppers the Luxury of Time


You hear a lot of talk about disruption these days, but what does it mean? The most basic definition is the application of new technologies to old industries. Launching shiny new apps and implementing cutting edge solutions are the final pieces of the puzzle.

The disruption process begins with understanding your customers and adapting to their needs. That’s a big part of my role here at Walmart Mexico.

Disruption is more than applying new technologies to old industries. Disruption is understanding what customers really want.

I started at Walmart Mexico as an intern. This was during the first year of my MBA studies. I performed market research about the online grocery industry in this country. Among other things, I looked at the future of pickup and home-delivery services. I also analyzed trends, plotted potential growth, and tried to forecast who else would be entering the Mexican grocery market.

Mexico vs. Everyone Else

I then compared our domestic grocery market to the state of the industry in other countries, including the United States and England. This way, I was able to determine how many years behind we were, and what we could expect in terms of a growth curve. My goal was to predict when the market would reach a certain level, and what Walmart could then do to capture a bigger market share when the time was right.

I presented the results of my research to Walmart, made my recommendations, and then went back to complete the second year of my studies. When I finished my MBA, I was given the opportunity to come back. I joined Walmart's team as the Digital Operator of Superama, our premium Mexican grocery business. This chain of supermarkets was founded in 1965, and we’ve been offering grocery home delivery for over two decades. At the begining we started taking orders by phone and by 2004 we released and by 2009 we released our first mobile app.

Relaunching the Superama App

I was put in charge of the Superama website and app, and was tasked with implementing our business strategy. This included overseeing the changes needed to meet our growth targets and to better serve our customers. I immediately set to work with my team to understand how and why our customers shopped for groceries online.

It was obvious from the start that the number one priority was convenience. Our customers wanted to shop for groceries without having to spend a weekday evening or a weekend afternoon in a supermarket. Saving money was also important, but shopping online and using the app was mostly about saving time. This was true regardless of family status. Single and childless adults were are as invested in saving time as couples and parents. 

We wanted to improve their overall online shopping experience. Retooling our website was straightforward, but Superama’s mobile app needed a serious overhaul. We’d launched it five years prior and had made few changes. Other than some minor tweaks and bug fixes, it looked and felt the same. Our app was ancient. It wasn’t attracting new customers at the speed we were looking for, and it wasn’t enticing existing customers to return.

The Mexican online grocery industry was ripe for disruption—it was about to explode. Our existing operations guaranteed Walmart and Superama a share, but if we failed to innovate, we would lose ground to the new competitors who were entering the market.

Giving Mexican Customers the Luxury of Time

We wanted to give our customers the luxury of time, but we didn’t have that luxury ourselves. It was impossible to build and launch a new grocery app fast enough on our own. We lacked the in-house resources to meet the rise in demand, and to counter the offerings of our new competitors. We needed a partner to get up to speed, and found it in Grability

Grability is a Colombian startup that offers white label grocery app solutions for businesses such as ours. The company incorporates business intelligence and market analytics tools into its app-based store. These capabilities help us understand what our customers are doing and how they are using our mobile shopping platform.

Another major plus was Grability’s roots in Colombia. The company has a global presence, and has built apps for grocery chains in places as far away as New Zealand. At the same time it is uniquely positioned to understand the realities of Latin American ecommerce. This is precisely the expertise we needed to build an app-based ecommerce experience that was up to international standards.

Grability presented us with conversion rates in other Latin American markets. They shared their successes in this part of the world, and showed us what we could achieve together. Consumers here want the same high-quality experiences and products as shoppers in the United States and Europe, but they think differently. Having a partner that understood this from an insider’s perspective helped the transition to the new app.

Mirroring the Real-World Grocery Shopping Experience 

The most obvious changes to the app were cosmetic. It may seem trivial, but altering the look and feel of an app can have a huge impact on the way customers use it. We’re not talking about a web page that has been reformatted for mobile. Using our new app feels like being in an actual supermarket, but is lot faster. You don’t have to drive to the nearest store and spend time going from aisle to aisle. Instead, you swipe your way from shelf to shelf. When you see a product you want, you flick it into your basket, as you would in the real world.

When you buy something that needs to be weighed, like fruit or vegetables, a scale comes up, and you can specify the weight you need. This is perfect if you’re preparing a recipe that requires two kilograms of tomatoes. If you need five apples for your child’s lunches this week, you can also order by the piece.

This is the way people shop in the real world. Grability makes shopping on your mobile intuitive and fun, but it does more than mirror a physical store. We were able to create an app that streamlines the grocery shopping process. It truly is a tool that makes our customers’ lives a lot easier.

On top of the intuitive interface, we built in capabilities that made it easier for our customers to plan their grocery lists. When they run out of something at home, they can use the microphone to dictate the item into our app. They can also scan the barcode to record the product they’d like to order. We want them to use the app three or four times a month to do their groceries, in the same way as they would go to a brick-and-mortar store.

Our research showed that the average customer order is 20 to 30 items. Drilling down further revealed that, over time, customers tend to re-order from a personal inventory of 70 products. Grability’s analytics helped us use these numbers to improve our app’s search functions. When our customers search for a term, the top results are their most frequently and most recently ordered items. When you search for tomatoes, the first thing you’ll see is the fresh produce you purchased last week, not a can of tomato soup. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than searching through page after page of results to get to something you buy all the time.

Using Metrics to Succeed

The new app was not an immediate success. Some of our customers were resistant to our new approach and shifted to our web platform. It took a couple of months to start seeing a difference in customer behavior within the app. We made some adjustments based on user feedback, and gave shoppers the time they needed to understand the new experience. After a few more months of tweaking everything, we started growing the app. We accelerated the frequency of our updates and of the addition of new features. Then, people started to love it. 

Your app’s lifecycle after you launch: Get user feedback. Refine. Repeat.

A year after we launched, we had some solid numbers to show. The updated app loads two to three times faster than the first version. Order times were reduced by 30%. Recurrent customers now spend less than ten minutes placing a 30-item order. Finally, our app has the strongest growth rate compared to our site and our call center. We are well on our way to becoming a mobile-first operation.

Part of this success is the result of Grability’s built-in analytics and business intelligence functions. The platform provides solid metrics that focus on improving conversions when customers use the app. We not only see what people are buying, but also when and where they are buying, what they are searching for, and how long they take to place an order.

Using these statistics, we can tweak what works, and drop what doesn’t. Grability can also provide us with insight on what has worked elsewhere. If a marketing tactic fails, they can suggest a different approach they’ve used in another country or another industry. This is the kind of partnership that allows Superama to constantly improve customers’ experience and keep disrupting the Mexican grocery market.

Taking the Time to Understand Security and Privacy

Speaking of partnership, Grability truly shone at the beginning of the app development process. It is a lean company that had mostly worked with smaller firms in the past, but it rose to the challenge of working with a giant like Walmart. We have many layers of security here. We have to ensure our customers’ data is 100% protected and it remains private.

Grability’s team took the time to analyze and understand our security needs. This meant adding a few extra weeks to the development process. Still, they launched a better app a lot sooner than we could have with our internal resources.

The best way to keep customers coming back to your app is to keep improving the user experience.

Grability has helped us to keep improving the user experience. This is the best way to keep existing customers happy, and to entice new ones to use our grocery app. On the fulfillment side, we have to get every pickup and delivery right. We have to provide fresh products in accurate quantities. Everything has to be ready on time and make sure we exceed our customers' expectations. 

On the app side, we have to continue to streamline the user experience. We are constantly fine-tuning existing features, and further reducing load and order-entry times. Our team crunches numbers and analyzes customer feedback on a regular basis. We constantly find and eliminate pain points and bottlenecks.

Our ultimate ambition is to make the Superama app an essential and everyday part of our customer’s lives. Thanks to Grability, we are well on the way to achieving that goal.