Helping Hy-Vee Expand Aisles Online Grocery Shopping
Celena Shepherd, Communications
November 24, 2021
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Technology has transformed the way people shop for groceries. Thanks to digital innovation, customers can save time, skip the checkout line, and avoid rush-hour traffic when they need to fill their freezers and stock their cupboards. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, consumers moved to e-commerce platforms for their everyday needs. Most retailers reported a surge in online shopping, especially grocers like Hy-Vee.
Hy-Vee is a supermarket chain that operates more than 285 stores across the Midwest. It launched its e-commerce platform, Aisles Online, in 2015. While the adoption of Aisles Online was steadily growing, the use of the platform quadrupled between March and May 2020.
While customers are choosing to shop for groceries in person again, the use of Aisles Online remains high. For that reason, Hy-Vee decided to add permanent structures called “Aisles Online kiosks” to their stores where customers who order groceries online can drive up and conveniently have their groceries loaded into their vehicles.
Hy-Vee plans to install Aisles Online kiosks at over 100 locations across the company’s footprint to meet the rising customer demand for online grocery shopping.
The grocery chain needed experienced engineers who have a proven track record of success to help tackle the new project. In 2020, Hy-Vee selected Olsson to help create 35 new Aisles Online kiosks throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas.
“It’s rewarding assisting with a service and a product that we understand the urgency for and feel connected to,” said project manager Brad Sonner, leader of Olsson’s General Civil teams in Kansas.
Today, Olsson is providing geotechnical and survey services to inform the ongoing design process of kiosks in the four-state area. We work closely with Hy-Vee, headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, and each community to bring the expanded Aisles Online vision to life.
The kiosks will be permanent structures that may consist of a secondary building or canopy overhang. Refrigerator and freezer space are also incorporated in designs to maintain fresh products and seamless service. Some kiosks are still being designed, and features may differ based on individual store resources and space.
Nebraska-based civil design technical manager Shayne Huxoll is heavily involved in managing the creation of Hy-Vee’s kiosks and thinks communities will benefit from them now more than ever.
“These kiosks are timely, and it was very evident when COVID-19 hit that there was a need for them,” Shayne said. “I think Hy-Vee is being proactive by enhancing online grocery shopping to be as easy and convenient as possible. They will serve a good purpose to the community.”
The upgraded kiosks will be accessible to everyone, meeting requirements from the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Olsson’s design team is ensuring kiosk parking lots are at the proper elevation and that pavements and slopes follow ADA guidelines.
Olsson’s flexibility and nimbleness have been crucial benefits during the pandemic, according to site civil industry expert Mark Palmer, who works closely with Hy-Vee.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the speed at which we’re working because online grocery shopping has risen,” Mark said. “This is the biggest effort we’ve done with Hy-Vee, and it’s been a great client to work with.”
Olsson has a strong decade-long relationship with Hy-Vee and is happy to be working on the largest project with the grocery store yet.
“We anticipate the trend of customers choosing online shopping as their primary way to shop for groceries to continue. Because of this, expansion of all our e-commerce platforms – including Aisles Online —is a top priority for us and that means making sure we have the infrastructure to support it,” said Dawn Buzynski, director of strategic communications for Hy-Vee. “Having a strong partner like Olsson has allowed us to move quickly to put these kiosks in place so we continue to provide the best service and experience for our customers.”
Olsson has multiple offices in the Midwest and is using its local expertise when collaborating with community officials. Our experts attend meetings and communicate with municipalities to comply with local codes and handle entitlements, submittals, and permitting.
“It seems the cities and the staff we work with realize the importance of the Aisles Online kiosks and everyone wants to make it happen,” said Brad, who oversees work on Hy-Vee kiosks in the Kansas City Metro, Topeka and Manhattan, Kansas, and Springfield, Missouri. “I think everyone views this as a very essential grocery service to provide.”
Olsson is working on additional Aisles Online kiosks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and several cities in Nebraska: Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Columbus, and Papillion.
Hy-Vee also tasked Olsson with civil engineering, landscape architecture, construction observation, and special inspections at various stores. Of the 35 kiosks Olsson is working on, some are close to completion while others are under construction or in the design phase.
It takes an impressive effort and community collaboration to optimize online grocery shopping like the Aisles Online kiosks. For those that have worked closely on this project, the thought of using the service sounds exciting.
“I’ve enjoyed working on a project that not only affects communities across the Midwest but my local store too,” Shayne said. “I’m looking forward to using it myself.”