In the competitive world of the grocery delivery business, any edge helps.
Last Monday, Whole Foods Market announced a partnership with the online grocery shopping company Instacart, turning up the heat in the grocery delivery competition circulating the U.S.
Instacart is a new service that essentially provides users with a personal shopper for their grocery store. If customers pick out the items they want online, an Instacart personal shopper will go to the selected supermarket, shop for the food, and deliver it straight to the user’s door.
Instacart allows its users to order groceries online or through its mobile app, and then will deliver the shipment within one or two hours ($5.99 for one-hour delivery and $3.99 for two-hour delivery), or at another designated time. The partnership will allow Whole Foods customers to save orders, so customers can log back into the site and easily re-access previous orders. The app also offers a recipe database and other shopping tools to simplify the selection of groceries.
“Whole Foods Market has been a community partner in Boston for many years, and Boston is a great market to implement this service because there is such a large demand for shopping at Whole Foods in the city,” said Heather McCready, the North Atlantic spokeswoman for Whole Foods. “The delivery service is a great next step in a city where people are relying on commuting by foot or using public transportation.”
Instacart, which already delivers Whole Foods products to customers in 15 cities, announced that the company is currently piloting a new in-store pick up option at select Whole Foods stores in the Boston area. Whole Foods will be the first national Instacart partner to offer the in-store pickup option.
“Customers are using our new delivery service and are loving it,” McCready said. “We’ve been so pleased with the response, and when it gets to be January, I believe that this will be a widely used service across Boston.”
The intention of the in-store pickup option is to speed up delivery and make the new service more cost-effective. The new setup eliminates time Instacart shoppers previously needed to travel to and from the store, and allows them to select groceries faster, because they will be familiar with the stores. The addition of an in-store pickup option will make it possible for busy customers, who can’t necessarily be at one place at a designated time, to place their order and pick up their groceries after an Instacart worker completes the job.
“Whole Foods Market is our most requested shopping destination, and we’re happy to be working together to create a seamless, quick option for customers with busy lifestyles,” Apoorva Mehta, founder of Instacart, said in a statement.
In addition to Whole Foods, Instacart offers delivery services for a number of other locations in the Boston area—Costco, Shaws, Russo’s in Watertown, and Market Basket, to name a few.
Supermarkets around the world are looking to experiment with the online delivery business. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), shoppers who become online converts spend 30 percent more than traditional in-store shoppers. Safeway, Amazon, and Walmart are currently delivering or offering pilot programs for online delivery. BCG expects the global market to grow from $36 billion this year to $100 billion by 2018.
The Whole Foods stores currently piloting the new delivery service include Brighton, Newtonville, Charles River Plaza, and River St. One of the company’s recent goals has been to market Whole Foods to college students across the Greater Boston area.
“I think that college students in particular will use this service when they are in their dorms,” McCready said. “We know that college students don’t have a lot of free time, so our new service lets you call and order one bag of groceries and have it delivered right to your door.”
Boston College students, in particular, have shown interest in Whole Foods’ new delivery service to eliminate travel costs, since the nearest location is in Brighton.
“My roommate and I usually go to Whole Foods every few weeks to pick up food, but don’t always get around to it because it’s kind of time consuming,” said Madeleine Loosbrock, A&S ’17. “With the two hour delivery only $3.99, the delivery service would end up being cheaper than an Uber, or taking the T to and from Whole Foods, definitely making it the better choice.”
Partnerships with companies like Instacart help Whole Foods establish itself with new customers who don’t want to step into a supermarket, and don’t care that a store has a greenhouse or an oyster-shucking station.
“Looking to the future, I think a lot of people will use this service when they don’t have meal plans and actually need to buy all their food,” Loosbrock said. “As college students, we’re all so busy during the week that even an extra hour not spent getting groceries will be well worth the delivery fee.”
Featured Image by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic