by Brendon Smith, Communications Director
We are happy to announce that our online shopping website will be launching in August, even if—as we were going to press—we couldn’t pin down the exact day. Some Owners have been waiting patiently for this day, some don’t expect to ever use the service, and some are curious why we’ve chosen to create an e-commerce site at all. If you’re one of those wondering why (or why we have one again), we need to go back over a decade ago.
Our first e-commerce site opened its virtual doors on August 15, 2007, three years before we opened Willy West. Although Amazon and eBay were popular web storefronts, it was still a novelty to order groceries online, especially from a local store. Forecasting showed it would grow in popularity over time, and we needed more ways to extend our services to home-bound Owners and those not living close to Willy East. An e-commerce site would also help us to become more technologically up-to-date and stay competitive.
Sales from our first online shopping and delivery service were good, but modest; it was clearly not going to be the equivalent of another register lane at Willy East. There seemed to be three main reasons for this. One reason seemed to be that our customers liked to examine what they were buying—were the bananas the right degree of ripeness? Another reason was product images, or the lack thereof; we didn’t have the capacity to take pictures of even a quarter of the products we sold, and product packaging tends to change every few years so many photos we had would eventually need to be replaced. A third reason was that e-commerce platforms weren’t made to handle the extra layer of complication that Ownership creates—Owners get some sale prices that non-owners don’t receive, we wanted a lower online shopping fee for Owners, etc.
After a few years, we gave up on that e-commerce website because of those challenges and others. A new IT Manager took us in a new direction with a new system, which showed improvements in some areas, but still had challenges interacting efficiently with our point-of-sale (POS) system, which maintains data on all products (name, price, vendor, quantity in a case, etc.) and Owner records (name, address, email address, equity paid, etc.). That meant we had to write code to make sure that the two different systems were passing information back and forth in a secure, efficient, and accurate way. Over time, all of that coding itself made the system inefficient and we began searching for a better solution.
Fast-forward to now. Our new online store won’t have problems interacting with our POS system because it’s part of our POS system. Thanks to our membership in National Co-op Grocers, we have access to thousands of product images. Our new system allows customers to specify whether or not to allow substitutions on an item-by-item basis and add product-specific notes (like “Only the stems of the bananas should be green!”); there are also global settings where customers can indicate their food preferences. So three of our biggest challenges are taken care of right there. While we wrestled with e-commerce over the last decade, more and more local stores started offering online ordering, and the overall grocery market became even more competitive, increasing the importance of providing our own service that would work over the long term.
To check out our online store, visit shop.willystreet.coop (on a desktop computer at least; the mobile version is still a work in progress). We’ll let you know right on that homepage if we’re ready to accept orders, or not quite yet. Even if we aren’t accepting orders yet, you’re welcome to check out the website. Once we can process orders, if you’d like to register to be able to place an order, click on the “Register” button on the top and complete the form. Check the checkbox if you’d like to receive occasional news updates—improvements to services, coupons, and such; we promise emails will be infrequent. Then you can start shopping! You can browse by aisle, look at sale items, or type in a product name in the search field. Product prices (including sale prices) are set at the time you complete your order, even if the sale is over when your order is delivered or picked up. When you’re done shopping, choose an available delivery or pick-up time and follow the directions to complete your order.
We shop orders from our Willy North store, primarily because that store has our biggest selection of products. Orders can be picked up at that store; we hope to offer pick-up at Willy East and Willy West in the future.
We can deliver to homes or offices in the following zip codes: 53562, 53597, 53703, 53704, 53705, 53706, 53711, 53713, 53714, 53715, 53716, 53717, 53718, 53719, and 53726.
Delivery and pick-up are available seven days a week:
• Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 4:00pm-8:00pm
• Tuesdays and Thursdays: 11:00am-2:00pm
• Saturdays and Sundays: 12:00pm-4:00pm
Same-day delivery or pick-up is possible if an available time slot is selected and the order is completed at least six hours before delivery/pick-up.
• Picking + Delivery: $9.99 for Owners $14.99 for non-owners
• Picking only: $4.99 for Owners $9.99 for non-owners
Orders must be a minimum of $50. Owners using the Access Discount program get 10% off their fee.
• Online: Mastercard, Discover, Visa, Debit
• Payment at Pick-up: Any tender we accept at North (including cash, Mastercard, Discover, Visa, debit, Wisconsin FoodShare/QUEST, WIC and gift cards)
• Payment at Delivery: Mastercard, Discover, Visa, debit, Wisconsin FoodShare/Quest
If you use the service, please let us know what you think! When you complete your order, you’ll receive an email with a link to a survey asking about your experience. We always appreciate the feedback, and will use it to improve.
Even if you don’t want to place an order, you can still use the online store for other things:
• See if we have a product available. (I should note, this shows product typically available at Willy North. These products may not necessarily be at Willy East or Willy West, and—although it’s unlikely—it might even happen to be temporarily out of stock at Willy North. If you’re making a special trip, please call before stopping in!)
• You can make updates to your Owner record if needed—new email address, new address, or new phone number. You’ll have to be registered and logged in to your account before making any changes.
• Looking up a bulk product PLU. Have you gone to your spice rack or cabinet or refrigerator and found something labeled 2354? We used to have a bulk PLU look-up on our site, but we dropped all product data from our website when we updated it because we wanted all product information in one place: shop.willystreet.coop. Now you can search there!