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Disappointment in Online Grocery Shopping

This blog post started as a recap of recent news in the online grocery world. I got about halfway through last night and decided to finish today. Then I tried to shop for groceries online over my lunch hour. Let’s talk about that. I’m having a party to watch football at 11AM tomorrow morning, so I want to pick up my groceries on the way home from work this evening. Those egg casseroles need to sit in the fridge all night, after all.

Online grocery options on my way home or near my home are currently limited to Hy-Vee, Walmart, and Instacart.

I’ve used Instacart in the past, and as a customer I’m not wild about their product markups and service fees. So I thought I’d check out Hy-Vee’s service. After filling my online cart, I go to check out. I realize they have the wrong store selected, so I change it. After making the store change, I see I can’t pick up the groceries until the 6-7PM window. That’s later than I want to pick up, so I change to another store nearby, hoping for an earlier pick up time. 6-7PM is the earliest I can pick them up from that location, too. As I’m changing back and forth between stores, the time cutoff for orders to be picked up today passes. That means they’re requesting at least a five hour lead time to pick my order. As someone who works in online grocery daily, I know that this is ridiculous.

So I move over to Instacart to shop from a local AWG store. I fill my cart again, go to check out only to realize that they add $15 in service fees. $15 is not worth the time I’d save shopping myself on the way home from work, even though I’m crunched for time. I think $10 is my breaking point for delivery. This is without considering the fact that products in Instacart cost me more than they do in store.

Then I see that Instacart has a pick up option in “my area” (Instacart’s new pick up option was one of the news items I was going to discuss in the original blog post). So I click on that option and it eliminates the $15 in service fees, which is great! But then I realize there are only two Instacart pick up locations for this store chain, both well out of my way.

At this point, I realize I can blog about my experience, so I decided I’d give Walmart’s online grocery a try. (The first topic in my original post was about Walmart surpassing Amazon as the top online grocer in the country.) I fill my cart, select my store and guess what?! I can’t pick up until tomorrow! They don’t tell me if I’ve missed the cutoff for same-day orders or if all of today’s time slots are full, but it doesn’t really matter at this point; I’m stopping by a store on my way home from work.

What are the takeaways from my experience? First, I should plan ahead better. But for you, the retailer? Shoot for order lead times of two hours. Heck, even three or four hours would be better than what I’m experiencing today. That should give your picker(s) enough time to complete a few orders and allows your customers some flexibility. That’s why they’re ordering online in the first place. If your time slots are filling up so fast that people can’t order groceries at 1:30PM for pick up that evening, consider adding another picker to meet demand. Train an existing team member to help out during high-demand times so you don’t have to hire another full-time employee.

Thinking about adding online ordering or wondering how you can make your program better? Don’t forget the customer’s experience determines the program’s success.

Why do I work at AWG? “I love being a part of a fun team that creates unique ways to help independent grocery stores grow their businesses. It combines a few of my favorite things: marketing, food, and fun. Who doesn’t want to talk about food all day?” -Jimmy