Pandemic forces possible ‘permanent consumer shift’ to grocery delivery

Groceries Delivered

As stay-at-home orders in Washington state and across the country stretch on in an effort to slow the spread of corona virus, there’s been a pivotal shift in consumer behavior. Online grocery delivery services are soaring in popularity as people are trying to avoid leaving the house.

Whether you’ve tried online grocery shopping or are more “old school” like KIRO Nights host Aaron Mason, the corona virus outbreak is certainly changing how we’re getting food to our houses.

“This pandemic has basically forced a lot of people to buy groceries online, and it’s resulted in what some analysts are calling a ‘permanent consumer shift,’” said Taylor Soper, managing editor at GeekWire.

According to a recent survey by RBC Capital of 1,500 shoppers, 42 percent said they use online grocery shopping at least once a week, up from 22 percent in 2018, Soper said. While the use of these services has been trending upward already, it grew dramatically because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Instacart, one of the same-day grocery delivery and pick-up services that partners with retailer partners like QFC, Safeway, and PCC, has seen a meteoric rise in users.

“Instacart has said that they were expecting this type of growth in two to four years, and they’ve seen it happen in two to four weeks,” Soper said.

The main issue customers using these services are running into now is there’s often a long wait time for delivery because there’s simply not enough workers.

“Instacart actually said that they’re going to hire an additional 300,000 shoppers over the next three months to keep up with demand,” Soper said. ” … Now on the worker’s side, it’s a whole other topic to dive into because these are fairly low-wage jobs. And right now, if you’re a shopper working for one of these services, you’re kind of putting yourself at risk by going in these grocery stores and hanging outside all day, and driving around, making these deliveries.”

Instacart has since made a few changes in response to shopper pushback, including providing hand sanitizer and masks for its workers.

As with Uber and similar companies, there is an ongoing debate of having these workers as contractors, or treating them as employees with benefits.

“If you’re following what was happening with Amazon and the factory worker in New York that got fired for speaking out and protesting, unionization is at the core of that and how Amazon really doesn’t want their warehouse workers unionized,” Soper said. “With the grocery deliveries, it’s a similar conversation in that now these workers are in demand, they have a little more say to demand some of these benefits.”

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