Publix Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store Trial Nixed: Grocery Shoppers Are Different

Written by Evan Schuman
January 10th, 2012

A trial for the Publix grocery chain to allow buy online/pick up right outside the store—similar to what Hannafords has been trialing—has ended with the service being killed. “While our Curbside associates have created many loyal Curbside customers, the number of consistent customers who chose to use this service was considerably less than required to meet our predetermined expectations,” Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten was quoted as saying.

There is something about grocery chains—unlike almost any other retail segment—where trust is minimalized. For some perishable items—think meats, fruits, eggs or vegetables—where a customer wants to personally inspect items, looking for unripe, moldy items or cracked eggshells. The suspicion that employee-chosen items might inadvertently—or even deliberately—be less picky exists. There’s also a carryover effect, where even boxed or canned goods can suffer from the psychological association with those more delicate items. Grocery shoppers are not averse to tech improvements—see mobile shopping devices, electronic shelf labels or even some instances of self-checkout—but they really don’t want their ability to select to be diminished.


3 Comments | Read Publix Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store Trial Nixed: Grocery Shoppers Are Different

  1. Emma Jenkins Says:

    Evan, I’m sure your take on the customer’s view is right, however I wonder whether supermarkets can go a _long_ way towards resolving it with easy, quick refunds? My partner unpacked our home-delivered fruit and veg box last week, and discovered bruised fruit. Took a picture, emailed the company, and within 10 minutes had a refund. Happy customer all round – the company cares, etc.

    This requires very careful thinking on the merchant’s part about how to invest in this area of customer service. However, since it is equally easy for my partner’s picture of bruised oranges to be uploaded to a social media site as it is to email the company, the downsides for NOT doing this are quite large.


  2. Steven P Says:

    What about the other non tangible benefits of shopping at the grocery store – it gets you out of the house and you get to interact with the staff. for many people this might be there only “human contact” in a day, or at least human contact that doesnt come with the stresses associated with family/work colleagues/customers. And of course, there is the primeval “hunting and gathering food” aspect.

  3. ed Says:

    The last poster hit it head on – there is a primal “hunter” instinct of us humans preventing the buy groceries online model to take off.

    Food, clothing and shelter are the three things we humans go out and scavenge for and that is in our primal instinct. It appears the next logical step is to focus on items that do not interfere with our primal instincts such as prepackaged food or personal hygiene.


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