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What is Online Grocery Shopping?

Have you ever needed to do grocery shopping, but didn’t want to leave your house or stop on your way home from work? Many of us have been there. Despite the fact that many of us prefer not to have to go grocery shopping, it is a necessary burden so that we can eat healthy, nutritious food without breaking the bank. Unlike many other retail sectors where online shopping has taken an increasingly dominant share of sales, online grocery shopping hasn’t become similarly widespread.
In this article, we’ll provide a brief summary of what online grocery shopping is. As this service is becoming more commonplace across the full spectrum of grocery retail, increasing numbers of people are curious about what the service is, how it works, and what the advantages to online grocery shopping are.

An Old Idea Finally Realized

If you remember the early days of the internet you might remember hearing about the promise of online grocery shopping before. A famous example of a failed online grocery shopping experiment was the company Webvan, which declared bankruptcy in 2001 after operating for only a few years. The story of Webvan highlights the fact that, even two decades ago, the idea of bringing groceries to your door was in development. Reporting in 2002 by the New York Times shows that major grocery store and supermarket chains saw the promise of online grocery shopping.
It wasn’t until recently that online grocery shopping became completely viable. Although it has existed for decades, the service itself has always been cost prohibitive. In some ways, this problem persists. The cost of last mile shipping, or rather the final delivery of the product to a residential address, has challenged online grocery retailers since their inception.
If you are wondering what online grocery shopping is, you will find a close approximation in many of your other shopping experiences. Similar to how you do your other online shopping, you visit an online grocery retailer’s website, add the grocery items you want to your cart, and complete your checkout. You’ll have to select whether you want your grocery order held for pickup, if you ordered it from a store that has online and retail locations, or if you simply want it delivered to your residence.

The Future of Online Grocery Shopping

Even online sales giants like Amazon have struggled with the logistical problems that surround the future of grocery retail--bringing fresh produce to someone’s door the same day they order it. Amazon has brought their logistical power to bear with their Amazon Fresh program, which promises same-day delivery in certain urban markets. However, Amazon Fresh isn’t included in an Amazon Prime subscription. Instead, a monthly subscription can be added to the Amazon Prime account. Then, for orders over $50.00 the customer receives free shipping. Orders under $50.00 incur a flat grocery delivery fee. This shows that, while online grocery shopping has become more affordable than ever before, in some ways retailers are still facing the same problems they faced two decades ago.

As further efficiencies are found in the last mile logistics networks, it will become increasingly cost-effective for both retailers and carriers to make same-day residential deliveries of groceries. One change you should expect to see more widespread adoption of for online grocery purchases is the use of electronic parcel lockers that are refrigerated. Refrigerated lockers are already heavily in use in Asia where many more people utilize online grocery services for shopping. Lockers make both in-store or delivery pickup easier than ever while keeping your groceries temperature controlled. Read more in our related blog post as we answer the common question, What are refrigerated lockers?
Within the coming years, expect to start seeing an increasing number of refrigerated electronic lockers in grocery retail locations for BOPIL, or buy online pickup in locker, and multifamily home properties as multifamily parcel lockers. Not only does the use of refrigerated smart locker systems add convenience to the entire process for customers, but it also helps retailers reduce last mile shipping costs. Refrigerated electronic locker systems address two key problems associated with grocery shipping costs. First, they reduce last mile shipping costs by consolidating deliveries to one location. Second, they reduce the number of redeliveries that are necessary when a customer isn’t present to receive their order. For customers, once refrigerated locker systems are adopted on a widespread scale, online grocery shopping as it currently stands and the current shopping experience will be revolutionized.


There can be no doubt that retail grocery isn’t going anywhere. With only 10% of households in the United States having done online grocery shopping at some point, there is a large amount of growth that remains. Still, the convenience that online grocery shopping provides will ensure that it isn’t going anywhere. Even if you don’t want to get your groceries delivered to your residence through a grocery delivery service, there are many grocery retailers that offer some form of in-store pickup for grocery orders.
The next time you need to go grocery shopping, consider trying out one of these online ordering and pickup services to shop for groceries and see for yourself if the convenience they offer is worth it. As more retailers and multifamily homes incorporate refrigerated lockers into their services, online grocery shopping will only continue to become more convenient.