The grocery chain hopes to offer the service in slightly less than half of its locations by the end of 2017.

A grocery store chain is in the process of testing out a click and collect model that allows shoppers to buy groceries online and have them delivered to their cars at a store location.

Family Fare Supermarkets, which is owned by grocery retail group SpartanNash, will begin testing the service in one of its Grand Rapids, Mich.-area locations within the next few months. The company is working with grocery omnichannel technology provider Unata on the offering. A SpartanNash spokeswoman declined to specify when the pilot will begin. Unata works with grocery chains such as Raley’s, Longo’s, and Roche Bros.

Larry Pierce, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at SpartanNash, says an increasing number of its shoppers want to shop for groceries online.

“The changing retail environment and shifting consumer demands necessitate that we adapt and have an omnichannel offering,” he says. “We want to be where our store guests are, and more and more, they are shopping online.”

Eventually the plan is to roll the service out to 25 of Family Fare’s 60 locations in 2017.

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“The pilot program will run as long as we need to ensure a consistently great end-user experience that we can scale as we roll (out) our curbside pickup program to additional stores,” he says. “At first, we’ll be testing the pilot with our associates to make this an amazing experience from beginning to end. Then (we will be) rolling it out to store guests and additional stores.”

SpartanNash is launching its offering at a time when online grocery sales are on an upward trajectory. A report from the Food Marketing Institute and The Nielsen Co. shows that the online grocery market could reach more than $100 billion within the next eight years.

The company is far from alone in making a push to better leverage its grocery stores to serve online shoppers. The Kroger Co., No. 83 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, more than doubled the number of stores it uses to fulfill online orders last year to 640 in 2016, up from 220 in 2015.

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