Empire Company Ltd. has unveiled the name and brand for its e-commerce strategy: Voilà by Sobeys and Voilà par IGA.
Empire is investing close to $200 million in total to build a robotic distribution centre in Montreal in addition to one currently under construction in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto, to support home delivery of online grocery orders.
The new e-commerce platform will support customers in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa and major cities in Quebec.
The Vaughan facility is slated to launch next spring with the second Montreal facility expected to launch in 2021.
The e-commerce platform, powered by Ocado, will offer up to 39,000 products, including fresh produce. Sarah Joyce, SVP, e-commerce for Empire, who spoke with Grocery Business Magazine, says the offering will include a "shopping site within a shop" for private label Farm Boy products.
"We could create a special landing page for Farm Boy products to do more story telling about the product and incorporate this into the new platform. For Ontario, Voilà by Sobeys will incorporate a base assortment but the platform gives us the ability to expand that assortment and do more with our product offerings and some of that would be Farm Boy products or products in the baby space or categorized by current trends, so we'd have products that could be assorted according to a vegan or keto diet, as an example."
Joyce says the online grocery home delivery service is unique in Canada.
"We are building the most advanced e-commerce infrastructure in Canada," says Joyce. "An online grocery home delivery experience like Voilà by Sobeys does not yet exist in Canada. While most players in the industry are focused on store pick models to fulfil their online orders, we are building automated warehouses specifically designed for best-in-class home delivery based on a highly successful model from the U.K. Voilà by Sobeys will deliver Canadians exactly what they want, when they want it, every time."
Sobeys already offers ecommerce for its Quebec franchised IGA supermarkets and its B.C. Thrifty Foods stores.
Joyce says that Empire’s Ocado-driven robotic systems will help to reduce costs, thereby allowing Sobeys to charge the same prices for online goods that it does with goods in its stores.
"Our e-commerce model will not only give us the ability to offer comparable pricing online that our customers find in-store, but because of better accuracy with our central fulfillment centre, we'll always be able to send the customer what they expect to receive and ensure they receive their prdoucts on time in a convenient manner. We're very excited by the combination of benefits and a new experience we'll be able to bring to Canadians."
Sobeys says it plans to have four robotic distribution centres in all.
"We've always said you could support four of these fufillment centres and service 75 per cent of Canadian households and cover 90 per cent of online grocery spend because of our geography nationally in which we cover the majority of households in urban areas," says Joyce.