Though few retail grocers offer home delivery of web orders, a survey from the Food Marketing Institute, a grocery industry trade organization, suggests that consumers respond more to web grocers that offer to deliver online orders compared with grocers that require pickup at their stores.
In 2010, 32% of consumers responding to an FMI survey said their primary grocery store offered online ordering, and 28% said they had done at least some online ordering at those grocers. 4% said they shopped online at those grocers one to three times per month, and 2% said at least once a week. But 22% said they shopped online at those grocers less than once a month, with another 73% saying they never shopped there online.
By comparison, the FMI survey showed that only 17% of respondents said their primary grocery store offered home delivery—but 13% said they ordered home delivery one to three times per month, and 5% said they did so at least once a week, higher figures than for when home delivery was not an option. 17% said they ordered home delivery less than once a month, leaving 65% saying they never did.
Regardless of the demand for it by consumers, however, home delivery of groceries isn’t for all retailers, experts say. “Home delivery is only going to work for really big folks with profitable online grocery operations offered in places where the retailer has a reasonable density of customers,” says Jack Horst, a retail strategist at retail industry consultants Kurt Salmon.
The category of “really big folks” surely includes Amazon.com, the largest web-only retailer, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and the leading U.S. grocery merchant. Both Amazon and Wal-Mart are experimenting with home delivery of groceries.
Amazon’s program, dubbed AmazonTote, has been tested by the company’s employees in Seattle for the past six months or so. In its infancy, the service entails weekly delivery of groceries and other items to the user’s home, with the groceries bagged in reusable tote bags, all free of charge.
According to The Financial Times, the service is linked to Amazon’s Fresh grocery delivery service, which currently only operates in the Seattle area but is available to all consumers in that area.
Fresh offers fresh produce and meats in addition to non-perishable grocery items; the service goes beyond food, too, ranging from pet supplies to beauty products and other Amazon.com categories. Granted, the convenience is reflected in the price — would you pay $2.50 for a single grapefruit under any other circumstances? — but you get what you pay for, which in this case amounts to a lot of time and energy saved.
On the other side, the “Walmart To Go” test , just launched in California last Saturday, allows customers to visit Walmart.com to order groceries and consumables found in a Walmart store and have them delivered to their homes, a company’ spokesman said. Products include fresh produce, meat and seafood, frozen, bakery, baby, over-the-counter pharmacy, household supplies and health and beauty items. Wal-Mart also offers a Pick Up Today service, which is limited to select electronics, video games and appliances.
What Amazon also needs to fear is a new initiative from the company called @WalmartLabs. According to GeekWire, this new Silicon Valley-based arm of the company is stating it has pretty lofty goals: “Walmart plans to expand the @WalmartLabs team and expects this new group will create technologies and businesses around social and mobile commerce that will support Walmart’s global multi-channel strategy, which integrates the shopping experience between bricks and mortar stores and e-commerce.”
In other words, exactly what Amazon does, except with the integration of brick and mortar stores.
Walmart seems to be turning its collective eyes towards technology more and more as of late, the only real question is what took them so long. If the discount store giant starts pouring its massive resources into more technology integrations, releasing its own products and taking on the likes of Amazon, we could see the company slowly take over eCommerce just as it did with the retail world.
The majority of grocery retailers still prefer store pickup of online orders, as MyWebGrocer* CEO Rick Tarrant says. But if the Wal-Mart and Amazon test will prove to be successful, we are pretty sure that at-home delivery will be the next big trend.
*MyWebGrocer, a provider of e-commerce and digital marketing technology and services to more than 110 grocery retailers, has supermarket clients including ShopRite that offer home delivery in some markets