Stay-at-home orders have made it more difficult for consumers to get products from their regular stores, and many people are using online grocery services for the first time. The sudden increase in demand has put a strain on these services, especially those that rely entirely on gig workers. As a result, these services have made policy changes in the last few weeks to accommodate for the evolving COVID-19 situation. From increased protection to monetary incentives, here are some of the changes that the top competitors are implementing.
One advantage that Walmart has over the other services during the stay-at-home orders is that its stores are familiar and close to customers across the country. According to the retailer, 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart location. Recent app downloads also show that the retailer’s grocery delivery service is being used more frequently than in previous months. A report by App Annie, which shows the download comparison between Walmart and Amazon apps, shows the rapid increase in traffic.
The service also added safety measures like assisted loading of delivery cars and no-contact dropoff. A second associate loads groceries and supplies into the delivery driver’s car at the Walmart store so the driver does not have to go inside to pick up orders. One recent change is that customers can now place orders up to two days in advance.
With its range of grocery store partnerships, including Costco’s warehouse stores that have seen dramatic sales increases, Instacart is one of the most widely available delivery services in use. According to Vice President of Instacart Care, Mark Killick, the company has seen an increase in orders over 300% year-over-year. In addition to hiring 150,000 shoppers in the past few weeks, Instacart has made changes to its tip policy. Instead of a 5% base tip, the delivery app now defaults to the last used percentage. The option for “no tip” has also been removed and customers must type in a “0” dollar amount if they wish to exclude tips.
Instacart workers were recently featured in various news reports concerning a “bait-and-switch” tipping practice. Due to increased demand, delivery windows have been filling up quickly across the country, making it difficult for consumers to receive their store purchases. Some app users have exploited the company’s tip adjustment policy, which allows customers to edit their tip for up to 3 days after their groceries are delivered. In order to get their groceries immediately, customers are adding lucrative tips to their orders, which their Instacart shoppers can see when selecting jobs.
Once the Instacart shopper accepts the job with the highest tip–reportedly over $50 in some cases–they complete the order and come to find, days later, that the generous tip has been rescinded. Though the company began offering protective kits for its full-service shoppers, including hand sanitizer, face masks, and thermometers, the shoppers are still exposing themselves to complete the no-tip deliveries.
Shipt’s services have had more constant demand compared to the other popular delivery services, and consumers have had more ease scheduling delivery times. Its main changes are a recent announcement that all shoppers will be equipped with gloves and face masks. The service added 70,000 new shoppers in the last few weeks in response to demand, and paid its workers bonuses.
Shipt — which is owned by Target and handles same-day deliveries from the Minneapolis-based retailer as well as other stores — said Tuesday it was handing out $100 bonuses to shoppers who completed between 50 and 100 orders last month and $200 bonuses to shoppers who handled more than 100 orders.Star Tribune, April 8 2020, “On day when some workers stage ‘walk-off,’ Shipt announces bonuses”
To complement its Shipt service, Target is in the process of acquiring technology from same-day delivery company Deliv. According to a CNBC report, the service focuses on pooling multiple deliveries and routing them to a similar destination.
Increased demand for grocery delivery has caused Amazon to limit the number of people that can use the service at once. Customers who are using Amazon Fresh for the first time must sign up to receive an invitation from the company before ordering. Amazon made the service free for Prime members in October of last year, making it available for more people to try.
In addition to company-wide hiring, Amazon has also converted some Whole Foods stores into e-commerce centers to fulfill orders and increased pay for hourly employees. Like the other services, Amazon is working on providing protective equipment to all employees.
For more information regarding the COVID-19 situation, you can read our coverage of the Winsight Grocery reporting on the subject here. For more information on policy changes, you can read our blog on store changes here.