SHERIDAN — Thousands of grocery stores across the U.S. have opened delivery and/or grocery pickup services, intended to save shoppers time and engage people through online platforms.
Online shopping platforms can recognize an individual’s shopping trends, personalize their digital shelves and obviously, save time, according to Bain and Company, a global management consultancy.
Ridley’s Family Market in Sheridan has been offering a grocery delivery service since the beginning of the summer. Store director Ben Goddard said Ridley does about 30 home deliveries per month.
As with any new service, Ridley’s has encountered a few hiccups with home delivery and in-store pickup. Sometimes orders are not received correctly over the phone, but other than that, Goddard said the home delivery service has been serving customers well.
While Ridley’s plans to advertise the service more and encourage people to shop through the app, Ridley’s@home, Goddard said offering the service hasn’t brought the store any new customers. Current Ridley’s shoppers are pleased with the service, Goddard said.
Online shopping and home delivery service are run by existing employees and haven’t added or detracted any jobs, Goddard said.
Ron, a Ridley’s shopper, said the delivery service is a good idea for people who need it, but it’s not necessary for him to use yet. Unless he became unable to travel to the grocery store himself, shopping in the store isn’t too much of a hassle, he said.
Kristy Lewis, an Albertson’s employee, has been delivering groceries to homebound people who cannot shop for themselves for more than 40 years. Lewis said customers who use her service are thankful and appreciative.
“They wouldn’t be able to get their groceries without me,” she said.
Separate from what Lewis does, Albertson’s also delivers to homes through the app Instacart, which is open to everyone.
Robert Palmer, Albertson’s store director, said Instacart was helpful when he and his wife were short on time and on their way out of town.
When a customer places an order online or through the app, an Instacart employee comes into the store location and shops for the user, then delivers the groceries directly to their house, Palmer said.
Instacart faced criticism in 2017 for its policies surrounding independent contractors who shop and deliver for the company. Starting Tuesday, Instacart plans to add financial and health benefits and other coverage for full-service shoppers, Venture Beat reported.
A study by Bain and Company in February said online grocery shopping can save time the more a customer uses it, but doesn’t always save time the first time around.
Using an unfamiliar online shopping platform can make shopping just as time consuming as driving to a physical store, the study said.
Customers like to browse shelves and meander the aisles and online shopping doesn’t always measure up, the study said. However, virtual reality technology is making an appearance in the grocery delivery world as well.
Walmart has applied for patents to add a VR-shopping feature to replicate walking the aisles in a real store, including virtual reality gloves so customers can “feel” items, Bain and Co. said.
Still, the study said customers are much more likely to choose their existing “brick-and-mortar retailer” if they were to try a home delivery service — 85% would choose a store they already shop at for online shopping.
The study said projections indicate most shopping trips will still happen in actual stores in 10 years.
Ridley’s, Albertson’s and Walmart all offer on-site grocery pick-up services, but Walmart does not have an online delivery service.
Albertson’s announced an initiative in July to make online grocery shopping websites and mobile apps more accessible to users with disabilities.
“Ensuring a great shopping experience for all customers is one of our highest priorities,” Ramiya Iyer, group vice president of information technology at Albertson’s Co. said. “Which includes ongoing web and mobile app accessibility enhancements to provide access to customers of all abilities.”
Online shopping platforms are a common way to shop for many products — household items, clothing and shoes are especially popular online purchases in the U.S. — but a variety of factors will determine if online grocery shopping will replace trips to a brick-and-mortar store.