Friday, July 7, 2017

Grocery Delivery: Niche or Mainstream?

Going shopping can be both inconvenient and time-consuming for the average person. People like to save time and money so you might think that a technological innovation to make grocery shopping more convenient might attract a lot of interest. According to David Pierson's L.A. Times article, that might not be the case after all.

Amazon recently put in a $13.7 billion bid to acquire Whole Foods Inc., including all of its stores, warehouses, and distribution centers. Although Amazon already has a service called AmazonFresh, which allows customers to order fruits, vegetables, and other perishable food products to be delivered on the same day, this acquisition seems to show that Amazon is looking to gain greater traction in the grocery-delivery market. But, the question still remains: will grocery delivery be a successful venture in the years to come?

During the dot-com boom of the 1990s. a company called Webvan had a goal of making grocery shopping a thing of the past. They planned to do what Amazon is attempting to do: make grocery delivery mainstream. Unfortunately for Webvan, even after $800 million in funding, they were ultimately forced to declare bankruptcy nearly 20 years ago. They realized too late that, at the time, grocery delivery was both incredibly costly and extremely risky because it takes a certain kind of customer to let someone else pick out their groceries for them.

Research has shown that people have some innate preference for picking out their groceries themselves. They want to be able to look at each and every piece of fruit before purchasing it, making sure that it's unbruised or the right level of ripeness. Consumers don't trust that an employee of AmazonFresh or another similar company will be able to do as good a job as them when picking out their groceries. Especially if they end up paying the same amount for the delivered groceries as for those purchased in the store, customers will not sacrifice quality for a little bit of convenience.

However, if the convenience factor was there and the prices were reduced, studies show that the combination might be enough to convince some customers to try out grocery delivery. People care about the price more than anything else. That's why discount grocery stores like Aldi have been expanding so quickly in recent years. Even if the quality of the food is not phenomenal, the lower prices bring customers in faster than at any other chain. So, although many people in this day and age want organic fruits and vegetables, few of them purchase their organic foods at Whole Foods, because the chain is known to have high prices. If Amazon somehow found a way to reduce the prices and deliver the food, all while still making a profit, their goal might be achieved in the near future.

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