A customer walks past mostly empty shelves at a Costco store in Teterboro, N.J. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Retailers are seeing a surge in online grocery shopping as consumers stock up on food and other essentials because of the coronavirus outbreak. Both customers who want to avoid the crowds and those who are running into empty shelves at brick-and-mortar stores are turning to the internet to shop. As more consumers try to avoid human contact, Instacart announced today that it would offer a “Leave at My Door Delivery” option.
CNBC reports that retailers offering online shopping services are noticing a large increase in demand, and many are having trouble meeting it, which is causing “limited delivery availability” and delays in some areas. Shoppers at both online and brick-and-mortar stores are scooping up bottled water, rice, beans, toilet paper and other items while they leave behind empty shelves.
Panic buying is making it more difficult for online delivery services to keep up. For instance, some Amazon Prime Now shoppers have received notices on the website that indicate delivery availability may be limited in their area and report having to wait 24 hours to find an open delivery window instead of the usual one to two hours.
A shopper for Instacart. Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon
Denver Post via Getty Images
Instacart, which offers same-day grocery delivery, is also seeing a demand for its services because of the coronavirus. It made the decision to roll out its “Leave at My Door Delivery” option across the country after testing it in individual markets.
“Over the last week, in particular, we observed a significant surge in consumer adoption and opt-in usage of the feature. Based on the increased demand for this new product feature, we’ve now made it available to all Instacart customers — bringing even more flexibility and optionality to their grocery delivery experience,” Instacart announced.
Customers who choose “Leave at My Door Delivery” during the checkout process online will not get a knock on their door or hear a doorbell ringing. Instead, they will receive a real-time photo of their groceries on their doorstep.
Profitero has been tracking the impact of the coronavirus on online shopping. Keith Anderson, senior vice president, strategy and insights, at Profitero, shared how retailers could keep up with demand and continue to fulfill orders.
“If rising demand puts more pressure on some of the leading online grocers, it’s possible some may respond by promoting options like click-and-collect, while some of the third-party fleet providers like Instacart, Shipt and Postmates will step up to promote their services,” Anderson said.
Anderson thinks online retailers can help shoppers by making dedicated landing pages to present cross-category solutions, such as bundled pantry staples they may want to purchase. This is also an opportunity to promote generic products or brand names that may not be as popular.
“Online retailers have to plan now for scenarios that involve supply issues, like late or insufficient quantities of high-demand items. They need to institute policies for allocating limited stock and put order maximums in place to prevent panic buying. Some also need to update policies on surge pricing,” Anderson said.
Despite planning, Anderson anticipates some disruptions to service, like fewer open delivery windows and lower stock levels, may continue over the coming weeks for online grocery shoppers. If you shop online for food and other essentials, plan ahead.