The Online Grocery Shopping Comeback

Do you enjoy grocery shopping? Some shoppers love walking up and down the aisles, seeing what’s new, looking for what’s on sale, and getting new ideas. They often pick up things that weren’t on their list. However, while many shoppers love that experience, others don’t. They would rather run in and out as quickly as possible.

That’s where online grocery shopping comes into play. Simply log on to your favorite store’s site, select the items you want, pay online, then make a quick run to the store to pick up your bags.

But wait — there’s more. Many stores are setting aside prime parking spaces, allowing them to sit empty most of the day so they can be available for the few people who pull up and wait for their groceries to be brought out to them. Those customers don’t even have to leave the driver’s seat.

There’s even more. Many stores actually deliver to your home. That way you don’t have to do anything other than answer your doorbell.

In fact, there are several new online grocery businesses that have started up. You pay a fee, select the groceries you want, and they deliver. There is no store to shop in. They are strictly online.

Not a New Idea

Ordering groceries through e-commerce websites or mobile apps may seem like a brand new idea that should be very successful, appealing at least to some of us. However several companies tried this idea in the late 1990s, but it didn’t catch on in a big way.

Do you remember a company called “Webvan”? I tried it — it was an interesting idea. I got what I ordered, but there was no walking the aisles and finding other interesting things.

Webvan shut down in 2001, at a time when many other Web ideas went bust.

However, the grocery business in general has become very different in the intervening years and now is at the top of its game.

Wild West

The grocery industry is going online again. It got a big boost when Amazon acquired Whole Foods. Kroger, Publix and many others have been pushing online shopping to remain competitive.

There are many new competitors in the field, large and small. Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and others offer some form of online shopping. Some let you pay for your groceries with your iPhone or Android smartphone. Others have self-checkout aisles. There is all sorts of innovation in this sector.

In fact, Amazon has opened a handful of checkout-free stores that let you check in automatically as you enter the store with your smartphone, shop, put items in your bags, then simply walk out while strolling through scanners that automatically charge your credit card.

Online grocery shopping is easy for the customer when it works the way it was designed. It more than likely will eliminate shoplifting as well.

In some ways, the grocery industry has returned to a wild wild west state of uncertainty — sort of the same feeling when e-commerce was just getting off the ground in the 1990s. It’s impossible to predict the innovations to come or which players will emerge as winners.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.

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