eCommerce Insiders

Online Grocery Shopping: 2016’s Latest Disrupter?

Retailers are jumping on the online grocery shopping bandwagon in a major way during 2016, and beyond.

Although the concept of shopping for groceries online might be new and exotic for the average consumer, the idea has been kicked around (and collecting dust) since around the 1999-2000 timeframe.

Back then, the Internet itself was new and exotic, so there was no way for retailers to properly implement their well-intentioned, future-leaning online grocery shopping programs.

During those times, the selection available to shoppers was extremely limited, based upon the viability of being transported to the shopper in a manner that protected the integrity and the shelf-life of the product.

The precious few online grocery shopping programs that existed back then weren’t very well known by the general public, and they soon experienced the mercy killing they richly deserved.

Moving forward approximately 14 years later, consumers have accustomed to experiencing a world where they can use any number of electronic mobile devices to order practically anything they’d like. Websites are far more intricate, leaner, faster, and sophisticated than they were at the turn of the century.

And more importantly, consumers are now accustomed to living in a world where e-retailers bend over backwards to accommodate their need for convenience and speed.

Re-enter online grocery shopping platforms.

Why Are Retailers Attempting Online Grocery Shopping Again?

There’s a few plausible reasons why retailers are looking at online grocery shopping with a deeply renewed interest:

The Need For Speed

The greatest benchmark that most e-commerce brands want to reach is the ability to deliver products to shoppers at a break-neck pace. What used to be good enough (typically, a few days) isn’t good enough, anymore.

Retailers have heard the message loud and clear: Shoppers want to receive what they’ve paid for as close to now as possible. This type of culture has permeated into consumables such as foods and beverages.

Since a great many big-box retailers sell groceries along with clothes, electronics, etc., many shoppers feel that there’s no reason why they should be made to wait for their next opportunity to go to the grocery store (or the multi-purpose big box store), either.


In addition to finding innovative ways to allow shoppers to conserve their waiting time in receiving products, retailers are also scrambling to find ways to offer shoppers as much convenience as possible.

People shop online to conserve important personal resources such as fuel and time. And at the end of the day, when consumers save fuel and time, they ultimately save money.

In fact, Business Insider spoke of the industry’s focus on convenience, especially as it pertains to online grocery shopping:

Some of the biggest names in tech — Amazon, eBay, and Google — are beginning to offer and promote same-day delivery services. As consumers get used to the convenience of ordering something online and receiving it the same day, grocery e-commerce may benefit too, with people more likely to buy food they know they will get quickly.

In order to increase their market share and frankly, compete with giants like Amazon, retailers are offering convenience-boosting services like online grocery shopping. It’s understood that shoppers will start to experience more brand loyalty to retailers that go out of their way to save their customers time and money.

And besides, more time and money saved by consumers will translate into more revenue generated by smart retailers who adopt and implement such programs.

Keeping Up With the Big “A”

One of the greatest motivating factors for retailers to implement online grocery shopping programs is their attempt to keep up with Amazon, which is rapidly expanding their Prime Now program.

Prime Now allows registered Amazon Prime members to shop for a wide selection of groceries that are either fulfilled by Amazon (at fulfillment centers around the country) or are fulfilled directed by participating local grocery stores.

The program is essentially free for registered prime members as long as they order at least $35 of qualifying products. They can opt to receive their orders within an hour (or less) for an extra $7.99 fee. If the shopper feels like waiting for two-hour or same-day delivery service, then they’ll receive free delivery on their products.

Not only will Amazon Prime Now allow shoppers to receive their groceries at home, the program (in some cities) will also pick up restaurant take-out food orders from local participating restaurants around the country.

Is Online Grocery Shopping Truly Beneficial?

Fortune Magazine wrote about the topic this past June, and had this to say about the true viability of online grocery shopping:

Online grocery shopping ordering potentially reduces the inconvenience of grocery selection by eliminating trips to physical stores. It theoretically enables consumers to shop much more quickly by occasion or for targeted fill-in trips, precisely when a trip to the grocery store is most difficult.

Online grocery shoppers today do not appear to enter the experience looking for a radical new way to shop. For consumers whose shopping behavior is full of dull, fill-in and pantry-stocking trips, online grocery has interesting potential to remove drudgery.

Who are the Major Players in This Space?

Besides Amazon, a few major retailers are also testing online grocery shopping initiatives in various ways.

Walmart, Target, and Lowes Foods are just a few examples of stores that are now letting shoppers buy products online. Store associates will then fulfill the products and deliver them to designated parking spots on the retailer’s property (or, in Target’s case, to the customer service desk). The shopper simply needs to drive to the store at an appointed time to pick up their order. The cost for the service is free.

But the major growth in this industry is coming from smaller start-up services. Sites like Peapod, Shipt, The Produce Box, Papa Spuds and many more are taking online grocery shopping one giant step further than big box retailers. These companies deliver fresh groceries straight to the consumer’s home.

From Shipt’s Uber-like model to Produce Box’s focus on local produce, these sites are bringing a revolution in grocery shopping to urban areas.

There’s so much more that could be said about this exciting trend, but now I want to hear from you – have you tried an online grocery or produce service? What was your experience? Share it with me in the comments!

Terri Scott

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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