As local grocers turn their focus to increasing their online services, the dreadful trip to the grocery store has been boiled down to a simple scroll through a shopping app.
Oxford’s Walmart and Kroger locations have both seen an expansion in online grocery shopping over the past year since launching their curbside pickup of online orders.
Walmart Assistant Manager of E-Commerce Lavina Woodfin said that they see a mix of locals and college students using the service, with no decline in the in-store shopping revenue. Walmart curbside pickup started in June of 2018, and they are projecting even more growth by June of 2019.
According to a 2018 survey by the Food Marketing Institute, 2022 consumers could be spending $100 billion a year on online groceries–the equivalent of every U.S. household spending $850 online for food and beverage annually.
Walmart is currently handling around 30 online orders a day with a staff of 17 people. They’re hoping to add five or six more positions to join their team with hopes of being able to fulfill 90 orders per day by July of 2019.
Kroger in Oxford plans to expand into the retail space next door where Tequilas and PJ’s Wine and Liquor were previously located. The expansion is set to be completed by the end of 2020 and will make room for more online orders as well as additional grocery shopping methods such as Scan, Bag and Go. Scan, Bag and Go allows people to pick up portable scanners at the store entrance and scan and bag items as they place them in their cart, allowing for a quicker check out.
A common practice in a college town is for student to use a photo of a credit card or have a number called in to charge for groceries, gym fees, or boutique purchases.This was not permitted at Walmart, but online shopping avoids the issue altogether. Parents even order online for them.
“Even though we are a college town, it is against company policy to take someone’s credit card number over the phone or through a picture,” said Department Manager of E-Commerce Kandace White. White said that this was an obstacle for students who relied on their parents for purchases.
Some students enjoy the convenience of curbside pickup and the shortened amount of time that it takes to shop.
“I like it because it’s quick and I don’t have time to go pick out stuff most of the time and my mom pays for it,” said student Madison Wawrek.
Another advantage of online grocery shopping is there’s less temptation to buy random items that were not on the user’s original list.
“It keeps me from buying unnecessary things I see on my way to get what I came for,” said student Alise McCreary.
According to Food Marketing Institute, 63 percent of food retailers sell food online. As consumers embrace more online services, grocers are working double-time behind the scenes to meet demand.
On a recent Monday, workers at Walmart were scrambling to fill online orders. The moment that an order is placed it is put into three categories; frozen, chilled and nonperishable. Every order is placed in these three large lists that have upwards of 2,500 items on it for the day. The pickers are designated to one category and shop throughout the store to put together orders.
“Our pickers easily walk 5 miles a day to put together orders,” said Woodfin.
Pickers who pull frozen and chilled food especially get their steps in because of Walmart shopping code. When a frozen or chilled item is picked from the self, the picker has only a 30-minute window to get all the items in the cart and back to the E-Commerce frozen and chilled freezer before it is no longer viable for the customer.
When the user is two minutes away from the store the picker will pull the frozen and chilled items out of the coolers and freezers and place those items with the rest of the order.
The second half of the job is a dispenser. The dispenser is the person who is designated to bring out the groceries and load them into the vehicle as well as to go over any substitutions. At this point, the user can accept or decline any changes that were made. At both Walmart and Kroger, the users can choose which items can be substituted for, and any substitutes are made up, and no additional charge is placed.
For example, if a user orders a half gallon of 2% milk and they do not have that they will upgrade the order for no additional charge to a gallon of 2% milk.
This is the standard process for both Walmart and Kroger.
For Kroger, Joseph Mangrum Kroger e-commerce Manager, in particular, if a shopper wants one gallon of BlueBell Homemade Vanilla ice cream and they have a program that would generate the next best for options if they were out of this particular option
The two main differences between Walmart and Kroger is pickup fees and monetary minimums of orders. Kroger has a $4.95 pickup fee attached to all orders as opposed to the free pickup at Walmart. Walmart on the other hand has a $30 order minimum as opposed to Kroger not having a minimum.
“It is not hard to reach our $30 minimum because once you grab a box of tampons, a bottle of shampoo, and a few groceries you’ve hit that mark,” said Woodfin.
Walmart will offer delivery in July of 2019 with a $7.99 to $9.99 delivery fee through a third party app called DoorDash.
Currently, Kroger offers grocery delivery through InstaCart, a third party service that shops for ordered items and delivers them within an hour for a $2 fee.
Student McKenna Adams says she prefers to use this because it delivers directly to her door rather than getting out to pick up her groceries.
“The service fee can be annoying but I figure that it’s worth it to knock and errand off my list,” student McKenna Adams said.