The COVID-19 pandemic has given a significant boost to the online grocery industry. According to the latest survey, the sales for grocery and pickup reached $7.2 billion in June of this year. Around 45.6 million American households ordered at least some of their groceries online in this period.
Many people ordering produce through the internet are doing it for the first time. Some are having a trouble-free experience while others think it’s a complete nuisance.
One of the biggest complaints around online grocery shopping is that it’s expensive when compared to the in-store option and the items are often lacking in quality. There often miscommunications between the buyer and stores as well which leads to wrong goods being delivered.
However, it is important to understand that online shopping is a skill that is perfected over time. If you can go in with the plan, buying online could have multiple benefits.
Learn to Shop Grocery Online Like a Pro
The current economic crisis has devastated numerous sectors and has put millions out of work. Last thing anyone would want in this environment is to pay extra for groceries. Wasting money on low-quality products is not an option either.
Instead, consumers should apply some quick tips to make the best of online grocery shopping:
1. Choose a Reliable Online Grocer
Before anything else, you need to select a good online store. The options will mostly depend on your geographic location. People in big cities have better options. But in any case, your first priority should be safety and security.
Currently, some of the top online grocery stores are:
- Thrive Market
- Amazon Fresh
You can never be too careful with your online safety —especially when it comes to sharing your credit card information. While lesser known grocers might provide a cheaper alternative, it’s better to select a popular name and avoid any unnecessary risk.
2. Take Customer Service into Consideration
It’s better to evaluate customer service of an online grocer before going ahead with the order. Whether the store offers an online chat or a hotline, see how well they respond to queries.
Although it’s hard to find an online grocery store with 24/7 customer service, you need to check whether the store has the workforce to help if any food item is damaged, expired or hasn’t been delivered on time.
After all, no one wants to deal with an uncooperative customer agent when they’ve been delivered a leaking carton of apple juice.
3. Search for Coupon and Promo Codes
Most of us love discounts but rarely do we actively search for them. It’s all about taking the initiative. “If you’re looking to save money on groceries, you must scour the internet for coupons and promo codes before ordering, or even signing up” exclaims Julia Markle of ClothingRIC, a website that promotes digital coupons and promo codes.
Coupons can help save on household expenses emucoupon.com and keep your budget in check. So don’t just wait for stores to throw these your way via email. Search for them on Google and follow social media pages of online stores to see if any new ones are popping up.
4. Avoid Delivery Fees When Possible
Like other online businesses, grocers charge delivery fees on top of the grocery’s cost. These fees vary depending on your location, timing and order size. Some stores such as Instacart don’t charge delivery fees if you order a certain number of items from select brands.
More commonly, you get free delivery when you order about a predetermined amount. Amazon Prime members don’t pay the delivery fee on Amazon Fresh if that’s a part of their plan. For anyone looking to save a few bucks, there are plenty of ways to avoid delivery charges altogether.
5. Evaluate the Subscription Plans
Plenty of online grocers offer subscription plans. They entice customers with free shipping and discount deals. For instance, Instacart’s annual membership costs $99 and $9.99 per month if you go for the monthly plan.
You have the option of signing up for free trials of different services and evaluate their customer services, delivery time and quality of produce. Whether or not a subscription is good for you depends mostly on your shopping needs. If you’re a frequent buyer, you will save money through subscription plans as they significantly reduce delivery fees. Otherwise, you can avoid subscribing altogether.
6. Time Your Order Carefully
Online grocers often add a surcharge when you order during a busy time. This is extra money you’ve to pay for no additional service. If you see any such charge in your order, choose another time to receive the order.
Since orders are received on a first serve basis —the earlier you place the order, the more chance that it will be assigned to a shopper. Some of the online stores allow customers to place an order a day in advance. Make sure to have good order timing to not only receive the grocery earlier but also avoid any unnecessary surcharge.
7. Check Your Order Multiple Times
First-time online grocery buyers often make the same mistakes. Sometimes it’s the right item but from the wrong brand. Other times, both item and brand are right but the quantity is wrong.
This happens because there are numerous options available and some online stores have a confusing layout. So check to see if that Soy Sauce is from your favorite brand or not. No matter how efficient the customer service of a grocery service is, returning goods is always a hassle.
8. Show Some Flexibility
Stocks for stores are always changing, especially now that more people are ordering groceries online. Inventory numbers are hardly correct these days which means that just because something is in the catalogue doesn’t mean it’s actually in stock.
Previously, some stores across the country were limiting how many items of a particular produce one could buy. This might still be the case for people in some locations. Hence, try looking for substitute ingredients to both make up for the items you cannot buy and also if it helps you save some money.
9. Be Courteous and Generous to Your Shopper
Unfortunately, the pandemic is far from over. Consumers can stay safe and order their grocery online but it has to be delivered by shoppers who are risking their health every day.
These frontline workers are no less than heroes who are helping millions avoid contracting the virus. Tipping them generously is the right to do under the current circumstances. Beyond this, one should be courteous with them even if there has been a mistake in the order.
Most of us are used to picking out produce in supermarkets. But the pandemic has left us with no choice but to order groceries from behind a computer screen.
With the risk of late delivery, damaged goods and miscommunication, many consumers will find online grocery shopping to be exasperating. Some will even find subscription models to be complicated and far costlier than in-store grocery shopping.
However, a little bit of strategizing can make online groceries purchasing seamless and cost-effective. Simple things such as searching for a reliable provider, analyzing subscription plans and looking for digital promo codes can go a long way in saving money and making the whole experience worthwhile.