Countdown is today celebrating 20 years and millions of orders since introducing online grocery shopping to New Zealand in 1996.
Developed in the days before web browsers, Countdown’s 1996 trial customers were sent more than a dozen floppy disks containing the online shopping programme that connected, via dial-up internet, to a central server containing product and price details. Today there are around 20,000 online orders every week, and more than 80,000 Kiwis are regular online shoppers with Countdown.
As the leader in online grocery shopping, Countdown continues to drive and evolve the online experience, teaming up with Samsung to bring Kiwis the future of online shopping via the Family Hub Refrigerator. Customers can place their Countdown order straight from the fridge via a wi-fi enabled touchscreen, or receive a photo each time the fridge door is closed, so you can always see what you’re running out of.
Countdown’s new Head of Online Sally Copland says the online shopping experience has come a long way from dial-up days and the business continues to innovate and improve on the service.
“We pushed the boundaries in 1996 when we started with 100 online trial customers, and we’re continuing to push boundaries and innovate in the online shopping space today for the same reason, to make things easy for Kiwis,” says Ms Copland.
“With the introduction of services such as Click & Collect in every Countdown store nationwide and the future of online shopping with collaborations like the new Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator, we continue to lead and improve the online shopping experience for New Zealanders.
“Online grocery shopping is still growing and customers keep changing. We’re continuing to drive and innovate in this space, including how we support our community programmes online such as The Foodbank Project, an online foodbank in partnership with The Salvation Army,” she adds.
Countdown began offering online grocery shopping as a trial in 1996 with 100 Auckland customers recruited out of the Manurewa Foodtown store. These pioneer shoppers had to be very committed; with each item taking around 30-45 seconds to load, the average shop took more than an hour and there was no auto-save function. Today the average online shop takes just eight minutes thanks to advanced search functionality, auto-save baskets, tailored ‘quick lists’ from previously purchased items, and personalised recommendations based on each customer’s Onecard data.
The original 1996 customers paid by submitting a direct debit form and ID via fax, before the order was faxed to the store where two specially trained personal shoppers packed the groceries to be delivered to the customers’ doorsteps. Now in 2016, payment is almost instant and orders are filled by more than 1700 personal shoppers nationwide. Countdown delivers to 99 per cent of the country, with more than 100 trucks on the road doing multiple deliveries every day. As demand for the service has grown, online sales now equal that of several brick and mortar stores with more growth expected in the coming years.
“We’re really proud to have introduced New Zealand to online supermarket shopping, and to grow it to what it is today. It’s hard to believe that online shopping was developed at a time when the internet itself was in its infancy. This required incredible foresight and commitment by our team 20 years ago, as well as the confidence of Kiwi shoppers who placed their trust in Countdown to pick, pack and deliver fresh, quality products to their homes,” Ms Copland says.
“We look forward to continuing to innovate in the online shopping space for another 20 years, and beyond,” she adds.