The Kroger company is testing online ordering at a local store, but the service is not available for customers yet. At Kroger's Liberty Township Marketplace grocery store, employees are now pilot-testing online ordering and in-store pick up.

Kroger customers could soon order goods online

At Kroger’s Liberty Twp. Marketplace grocery store off Yankee Road, employees are now pilot testing online ordering and in-store pick up, according to the company. It’s the first Kroger-branded store nationally to test the service, said company spokeswoman Rachael Betzler.

When Kroger acquired earlier this year Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc., not only did it expand the Cincinnati-based grocery chain to the southeastern United States, but Kroger also gained new technological capabilities in the deal.

“Harris Teeter has successfully scaled a click and collect model in their stores and we are learning a lot from them about it,” Betzler said Wednesday in an email.

Additionally, the more recent acquisition of online vitamin and health products retailer Vitacost.com Inc. further expands Kroger’s digital platform.

“We believe Kroger is uniquely positioned to blend the art of retailing and deep customer insights with a superb online experience,” Chief Operating Officer Mike Ellis told investors on a Sept. 11 conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Vitacost’s “extensive e-commerce platform coupled with Kroger’s customer insights and loyal customer base will really be a powerful combination that we can leverage to create new levels of personalization and convenience for our customers,” Ellis said.

Eventually, the online ordering will open to customers at the Liberty Twp. store, and later, to other stores in Kroger’s Cincinnati/Dayton Division, Betzler said. Among the reasons Kroger picked the Liberty Twp. store for testing was because of available floor space and because it’s a high traffic store, Betzler said.

Beth Podnar of Liberty Twp. said she wouldn’t order a major grocery trip online, but she would use it if she needed something quickly.

“Maybe something that you forgot, you’re in a rush. You’re baking cookies and you don’t want to go in the Krogers, if they would just have the flour ready at the door for you,” Podnar said.

It would help “elderly people who don’t want to walk the whole floor. People who’ve had surgeries, and they can’t walk around there. Their feet are a problem. That would be a great thing,” she said.

No dates for expanding the service are set yet.

“Our approach with new technologies and systems is to test small and work out the kinks before scaling more widely,” Betzler said.

In recent years, Kroger has tested new checkout technologies at local stores such as the Advantage Checkout, a grocery tunnel scanner at Kroger’s Lebanon store in Warren County. In Middletown, the Fortune 500 grocer is testing “Scan, Bag, Go,” a hand-held device for customers to scan groceries while they shop.

Also new at local Kroger stores, including the Liberty Twp. location, is an apparel section selling clothes and shoes.

Kroger operates grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores across a 34-state footprint. The food and drug retailer is Ohio’s third largest employer of 39,000 people, according to Ohio Development Services Agency.

Presently Kroger employs more than 375,000 full- and part-time employees ringing up grocery orders at 2,640 supermarkets and multi-department stores.

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