Is Online Grocery Shopping a Slippery, Albeit Convenient Slope?

Of all the industries that Amazon has eaten, grocery shopping may prove the toughest to swallow.
October 6, 2017
8 mins read

Online grocery shopping is becoming increasingly popular all over the nation. There are dozens of retailers that allow you to order online and either have your groceries sent straight to your door or allow you to choose a time to pick them up. But is this new trend just a fad or will it become the new norm for skipping the supermarket?

It would first help to understand exactly what the highly vaunted alternative to traditional aisle-perusing looks like. Online grocery shopping is offered through many retailers in a variety of different ways, the common of which includes compiling a list online and having an employee pick the goods up for you. You can also just have the product delivered right to your door, perishable and non-perishable materials alike.

With so many online retailers, it’s hard to know which one to choose or even where to begin. For example, the Kroger Company offers Clicklist at any of their stores across the country, which requires you to make an account to proceed. Once you have logged in and picked your location, you can search the entire store and add anything to your cart. Similarly, in thirty-seven states, Wal-Mart offers you the option of creating an online list and picking up your groceries at a location of your choice, given that you have an account.

Unlike those two, Amazon Grocery allows you to shop online, but you don’t have to drive out to get your groceries. With an account, you can shop for a large variety of grocery goods, including frozen meats, snacks, dairy products, fresh flowers and even wine, and, if you are a Prime member, you can enjoy benefits such as fast, free shipping.

There are many other online shopping sites that are similar to Amazon Grocery, as well. Thrive Market, a members-only online shopping service that offers healthier, organic options, provides you a one-for-one membership option for $59.95 a year, which also sponsors a low-income family’s enrollment. When you create an account, you can start with a thirty-day free trial, cancellable at any time. In addition to food, Thrive also offers beauty and body products, stuff for the home, pet needs, home goods and items for babies and kids.

Also, if you are the type of person who makes impulsive decisions when you go grocery shopping, online options might be a good solution. I have to admit that I fall into the category of impulsive shopper, especially when I’m hungry. When I pass something that looks good, I’m more inclined to purchase it if I haven’t eaten lunch yet. If I have to search each item online instead of physically browsing the isles, I am less likely to purchase unnecessary snacks, which can save you a good amount of money in the long run.

While there seem to be obvious positives to being able to doing all your shopping online, the merits of the paradigm-shifting system can sometimes distract from its faults, as the concept is not without its drawbacks. There are some glaring pitfalls to the entire online shopping hype.

With services like Kroger’s Clicklist and Wal-Mart’s grocery pick-up, the convenience of having someone else picking out your food comes with certain questions about quality and personal preferences. I like my bananas a little green, my tomatoes firm and I pick the chips from the back of the row. When someone else is shopping for me, I don’t get to make those decisions. And if you’re unhappy with the apples the staff picked out? You have to drive back to the store to return the four apples or you can complain to management. Either way, you are spending more time fighting over quality or being upset that your chips have expired than it would have taken to have simply gone grocery shopping yourself. If you had just gone to the store, you could have picked out your own apples and chips.

Another major downfall with such online services is the enrollment and shipping fee. Prime membership is not required to do shopping with Amazon Grocery, but without one the shipping would be sky high and you would have to ask yourself: “Is it worth the extra money to have things delivered to your door?” I have to admit that it’s convenient not to have to drive anywhere to get the things that I need, and just about anyone who has shopped online will agree that having everything arrive in the mail is the height of luxury. But might it not be as thrilling if all you received, for a drastically high shipping fee, were all-purpose cleaner and sponges?

There is also the question of timing. If you have Prime, you know your order will get to you quickly, but for the non-Prime shopper who does not want to pay that extra money for express shipping, waiting a week to get your food might be a little annoying and make menu-planning challenging. Fast and timely delivery might not matter that much with things like cleaning products or dog toys, but when it comes to food, precise timing can be everything.

Grocery shopping online seems like a lucrative idea and may work for some people, but I don’t think it will become the new norm. I think there are too many people, such as myself, who like to pick out their own products and don’t enjoy waiting for their canned goods to arrive. I am guilty of ordering a few household goods online and even trying grocery pick-up once, but I’ll still stick with old-fashioned shopping.

What about you? Are you going to be clicking your way through your grocery list or will you be sticking with rolling a cart around the supermarket? The choice is yours.

Alida Siebken, Radford University

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Alida Siebken

Radford University

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