Buy online, pickup in-store a timely option

Articles
October 22, 2008

Buy online, pickup in-store a timely option

There may never be a total substitute for tactile shopping, especially for finicky produce consumers who scrutinize the skin of every tomato or apple they buy for a possible blemish, or look into the eyes of the fish they intend to broil, see the redness of their future roast, or carefully compare nutritional labels in center store. Others simply love the aroma of a bakery or tortilleria, or the opportunity to sample and enjoy serendipity in the aisles. But a growing core of the consuming public would gladly trade some or all of these shopping ‘benefits’ for the chance to save time (and gas) and shift time in their hectic days—and are willing to pay for the convenience. To the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ shopper, acquiring household essentials is a functional task more than a social experience, and the chance to delegate the act of shopping for a few bucks has value.

There may never be a total substitute for tactile shopping, especially for finicky produce consumers who scrutinize the skin of every tomato or apple they buy for a possible blemish, or look into the eyes of the fish they intend to broil, see the redness of their future roast, or carefully compare nutritional labels in center store. Others simply love the aroma of a bakery or tortilleria, or the opportunity to sample and enjoy serendipity in the aisles.

But a growing core of the consuming public would gladly trade some or all of these shopping ‘benefits’ for the chance to save time (and gas) and shift time in their hectic days—and are willing to pay for the convenience. To the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ shopper, acquiring household essentials is a functional task more than a social experience, and the chance to delegate the act of shopping for a few bucks has value.

Mass merchants and consumer electronics stores stepped up this online option last Christmas season, often at no cost to shoppers, who were assured they’d get what they bought. This is usually no problem for one sealed item or a handful, even when shipped from a warehouse.

But a supermarket order could easily include dozens of items, many subject to a customer’s scrutinizing eye. Is the order picker selecting the best steak of its type, the freshest date on milk, and acceptable quality center-store brands that are on sale to further satisfy the customer?

Kudos to some of the supermarket leaders who are bringing their stores to customers online 24/7, even if it takes time to completely nail the nuances of order fulfillment.  Online postings detail customer frustration, but SG believes these processes will improve in time, especially if chains decide to learn the preferences (sizes, flavors, etc.) of individual customers.

Albertsons (of SUPERVALU) lets people select groceries, health and beauty care, flowers, party supplies and food-related gift items for pickup at a chosen store, from one to seven days later, for $5.95. The chain claims people save more money by being charged the lowest price on food items and avoiding impulse shopping.

Meijer last month launched a test of Grocery Express, which enables shoppers to pick up an order of grocery and HBC as quickly as three hours later, for $6.95 per order or $24.95 unlimited orders per month.

Giant, Carlisle, (of Ahold) offers a pick-up option in two of its stores, for $4.95.

Findings of the e-tailing group’s third-quarter 2008 study of this activity across multiple channels showed products ready and waiting 94% of the time, up from 83% in 2007, and e-mail notification that an order is ready 71% currently compared with 52% in 2007.