Online Grocery’s History and Future

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The Internet is constantly proving that anything is possible. When ecommerce was new, online grocery shopping may have seemed logistically impossible. Now online grocery is a convenience that continues to take center stage in making lives easier and healthier.

We live in the age of instant gratification. When we want something, we expect it in seconds. We even get annoyed when a website page takes a bit longer than normal to load. To us, it’s all about time, our precious, precious time. Whether you live in a small town, or a big city, convenience is key. So why drive to the grocery store when you can click a few buttons and have your list delivered in time for dinner? Online grocery shopping has provided us with realities we never dreamed of. But where did the idea come from, when did it start, and what does the future look like?


How the Game Changed

Is food delivery really that new? Just ask the milk man. In the past, deliveries were relied upon for basic necessities like milk and eggs. The biggest reasons for delivery’s initial decline? Larger refrigerators, and bigger, closer grocery stores. But for many years, direct home delivery was widely popular!

Now technology allows a return to this earlier convenience. The Internet has enabled consumers to purchase goods they may or may not be able to easily get in “real life.” If they can buy an item in-person, they may choose not to because it’s more convenient or cheaper to buy online. Buying things online has removed the everyday stress of writing a list, going to the store, and navigating large crowds or waiting in long lines.  

Instead, online grocery is simple. Online grocers capitalize on the fact that people like things to be done for them. Like any business, there are risks to take into consideration. These risks are giving some grocery stores pause when they consider entering the online marketplace.

Not every physical business is well-suited for the virtual world. First, a grocery store must decide whether to keep the existing physical store(s) open while expanding online, or, to risk it all and close the physical business. Many stores have tried to use their physical stores as storage and inventory for the goods they sell online. As you can probably guess, keeping a physical store open while going online is a huge investment. It means that you not only have to cover all of your usual physical costs, but add virtual costs for web design and maintenance as well.

It is estimated that consumer spending on online grocery shopping will double in the next five years from $150 billion in 2018 up to $334 billion. The physical retail game has changed and some stores are struggling to cash in.


Online Grocery Now

When it comes to online grocery, there are many retailers to choose from. There are mega stores that sell a wide variety of products, as well as smaller sites tailored to specific diets or needs. Some of the most successful online grocery stores that you may or may not have heard of include:

PeaPod: PeaPod is a purely online site and the country’s leading internet grocery store servicing 24 U.S. markets. They guarantee that your goods are all fresh, and many times are able to provide next-day delivery. If you are someone who plans ahead, they also offer the option to place orders two weeks ahead of time. Like PeaPod, is not an actual physical store. You may have shopped on Jet before for household products. One of their big selling points is the more items you put in your cart, the less they cost. With their grocery program, only the best-of-the-best products are hand-picked for you. A bigger selling point? You don’t have to be home when your order is delivered! They offer free shipping over $35, you only pay a $4.95 fresh packing fee so that your goods stay cold and fresh all the way to your door.

Walmart Grocery: We all know Walmart! Walmart grocery offers great prices, but buyer beware, not all locations are serviced with home delivery. Some markets enjoy free shipping and delivery and the same great prices you see in store. A few Walmart Grocery programs even offer a unique service. Not only do they deliver, but they will also put the food in your fridge for you.

AmazonFresh: What doesn’t Amazon do? With AmazonFresh you can order food at any time and pick the time of delivery that works for you. There are no inconvenient four-hour delivery windows here! Want to wake up to fresh eggs and a loaf of bread? You got it. Just use your prime membership to add on this service for an additional $14.99 per month.

There are many positives to shopping online beyond not having to change out of your pajama pants (and let’s be real, that’s one of the biggest pluses out there).  When buying groceries online you can compare prices across sites and take advantage of great deals when buying in bulk. If you have the room buying things in bulk is a great way to save money, especially if you have a large family. Another big benefit? You’ll save on gas and transportation costs. How many times a week do you rush to the store and in some places, pay for parking? When buying online, you are able to take your time and get everything that you need in one fell swoop. No forgetting if you have something or not and being unable to check. No making multiple trips back and forth when you forget an item you need.

Buying online also helps you use your time more efficiently. You can choose a recipe for dinner and shop with the ingredients list open. If you wake up at 3 a.m. with a great idea about what to serve at an upcoming family dinner, quickly place an order for the ingredients and you’re back to sleep by 3:15. Shop when you want, regardless of whether the store in town is open, and get on with your day (or night) in peace.

Buying groceries online has become one of the easiest, most convenient ways of acquiring what you need in the present day. But what does the future look like?


The Future and its Possibilities

When it comes to the future of online grocery stores, their popularity is only going up. Take into consideration when Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year. That merger allowed for huge expansion of Amazon’s grocery inventory, and struck fear into all of its competitors. But not all grocery stores have made the transition to online. Those that haven’t run the risk of losing even their most loyal customers to convenience. The longer grocery stores take to go online, the more they risk being outsold or replaced by boutique online grocery stores.

While convenience is key, that doesn’t mean that everyone sees online grocery as a positive. Not everyone enjoys shopping for food online. A recent survey focused on the reasons customers avoided online grocery in 2017. Respondents enjoyed going to the store weekly and didn’t want to spend extra money online. Many didn’t trust other people to pick their food, preferring a more hands-on approach to shopping, or simply never found the time.

It’s not wrong to resist the switch to online. The above reasons are all incredibly valid, especially if you know exactly what you want and you won’t be happy unless you personally pick your produce. The habit of shopping in-store, especially in this area, is a hard one to break.

Even with consumer resistance to purchasing food online, the online grocery business is estimated to grab 20% of the market by 2025. That may seem far away now, but remember it’s already 2018. Around a quarter of American households already buy certain groceries online. Of that quarter, 60% are expected to increase their online grocery spending to about a quarter of their total food dollars in as few as 10 years. These facts don’t mean an end to physical grocery stores. Sure, there will be increased competition for the remaining market share, but if physical grocery stores take it all in stride, they may be able to use the growing number of online shoppers to tighten and improve the functionality of their stores. The role of brick-and-mortar grocery stores will change as the years go on. They must be prepared to keep up with trends to keep themselves in business.

The future of online grocery is vast and ripe with potential. Like all things, not everyone is going to be on board, but there will be enough people latching on to this new trend to keep it afloat for years to come.



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