Online grocery shopping has been a nonstarter for more than 20 years. Way back in the 1990s, when people tried to sell everything from sofas to lawnmowers online, groceries were necessarily given their moment. It’s just that the idea was way before its time.
People wanted to squeeze their lettuce, you know, before buying it.
But in the last couple of years, it has started to heat up, thanks to Walmart and Amazon settling into a a war of world superpowers. In some markets, those online grocery purchases could be delivered to your door in less than two hours, but in many other places, like here in Amarillo and Canyon Texas, it meant selecting a time slot for curbside pickup.
That was then, and this is now, and the pandemic has thrown everything and everyone into chaos. Rather than risk coming into contact with infected shoppers, so many people are ordering online that it is giving everyone in the industry headaches, labor shortages, and even 24-hour windows for customers to be able to pick up their orders. Anyone selling groceries is suddenly getting schooled in how this may all play out in the long-run.
And with many more stores now restricting the number of shoppers inside at any given time, online ordering is only going to increase more. The Canyon Walmart is all set up for outdoor queues and one-way shopping aisles, although the crowd this morning had not materialized by 11:00am. I suspect it won’t be long before it does, though.
Sure, there will always be those for whom shopping in the store is the preferred experience. While I have ordered numerous specialty foods online, I have never used curbside…yet. I still like perusing the many selections available, and to be honest, this is the only type of shopping I do in which I welcome the suggestion engine of assortment to wow me.
But that could all change as the pandemic continues. It’s not a lot of fun having to practically don a hazmat suit just to get groceries. The fun factor is a lot lower when under duress of any kind. I may have to cede control over which cauliflower I would select in favor of letting someone else take the viral bullet for me.
Yikes. That sounds cruel, but that’s what it amounts to whenever we shop online these days. As long as we take proper precautions with our purchases, we are saving ourselves, one microscopic murderer at a time.
As for Walmart, Amazon, and everyone else selling groceries online, they are getting many years’ worth of experience in the span of a month or two (and I am being optimistic there). Only about 3.7% of US grocery purchases are made online, but this is only going to explode in the coming days. And once people get accustomed to the new experience, they are likely to continue long after the pandemic is over. Heck, I might even give it a try. God knows I buy everything else online.
Supermarkets should view this as an opportunity to get up to speed faster than they otherwise would have been able to. The pandemic is another of those opportunities lurking behind a threat, and those who view it as such will emerge victorious and ready for a new world customer when this is all over.
Just make sure you pick a nice firm, white, cauliflower with no wilted leaves for me.
Dr “What’s In Your Cart?“ Gerlich