Whole Foods Builds Unified Commerce Platform, Continues Rapid Expansion

Whole Foods Market is growing at a faster rate than even its executives imagined and is investing in technology and new pricing strategies to facilitate that growth.
As one of the hip players in grocery, Whole Foods is increasing its investment in technology to enhance the customer experience. The retailer is making strides toward full engagement with its customers across multiple channels with its mobile app, integrated online and in-store POS, and digital coupons, among other initiatives. In addition, Whole Foods has partnered with mobile payment provider Square to allow for customer check out of in-store food venues via mobile device.
"We remain focused on improving and extending the customer experience and the integral first step is moving toward a unified commerce platform," Walter Robb, Co-Chief Executive Officer said. "[Our] new partnership with Square enables us to offer digital check-out at venues and select stores. In addition several lab stores we will be testing out other exciting innovations."

Whole Foods will never be confused with a discount grocer, but it is making strides to adjust its pricing structure to stay competitive with the lower-priced competition. Initially the company focused on the competitive pricing of its grocery departments, but is now turning its attention to its perishable areas.

"We are continuing to maintain our high quality standards which clearly differentiate us from our competitors, while broadening our selection to include more value," Robb said. "In produce for example, we are adding more high-grade conventional offerings to complement our organic offerings allowing customers a broader range of choices."

The grocer currently operates 373 stores and has over 100 more in its development pipeline. It expects to cross the 500 store barrier in 2017 and has earmarked 1,200 locations as its long-term goal.
"When we went public in 1992 we thought that maybe we could have hundred stores," Jim Sud, Executive Vice President, Growth and Development said. "I remember back 10, 15 years ago we were talking about how to organize ourselves and we had 250 stores. And here we are with 373 today on our way to 500 in 2017. So [1,200 stores] is a moving target but I think it's one that’s achievable."
In Q1 the retailer's sales increased to $4.2 billion. The average weekly sales per store increased to $719,000, translating to sales per gross square foot of $983. It opened 10 new stores increasing its square footage over 8% to 14.2 million.

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