Grocery Delivery Windows Are Suddenly Available — What Changed?

published May 23, 2020
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Credit: Patty Catalano

Anyone who has attempted to get their groceries delivered in the last couple of months has likely been frustrated at just how impossible it seems to secure a time slot. And while it may be just an inconvenience to some, grocery delivery is an absolute necessity for certain individuals and also a lifeline for those who do not feel comfortable going to the grocery store right now.

But things started to change for the better last week, seemingly out of the blue, when the traffic jam opened up and suddenly delivery time slots appeared. To solve the mystery and find out what changed exactly, we reached out to some of the delivery decision makers. 

Why are grocery delivery slots suddenly available?

The short answer: Many grocery delivery services have ramped up their operation, scaling up their labor force and inventory capacity.

We spoke with a spokesperson at Shipt, who confirms that they doubled their shopper community and support team over the past few weeks. This has “helped cut support wait times down by 75 percent,” according to their spokesperson. The service is also now allowing customers to view available delivery windows over a four-day period (as opposed to just the previously available two). Amazon Fresh, a service in which a majority of customers are getting same- and next-day delivery, has expanded its delivery capacity (for both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods) by more than 160 percent.

After an unprecedented surge in online and mobile shopping (for pickup and delivery services) Walmart chose to merge its two separate mobile app experiences, the Walmart Grocery App and the Walmart App, to consolidate services and more clearly serve customers. Now shoppers can access delivery time slots, reserve no-contact pick-ups, and refill prescriptions all in one place. “We launched contactless payment, Express Delivery, curbside pickup, and thousands of new pickup slots — and at a time when our customers needed them most,” Chief Product Officer, Meng Chee, said in a statement.

An Instacart spokesperson echoed this surge in customer demand. There aren’t just 500 percent more orders compared to last year — the average customer basket size is up 35 percent as well. In response to this massive uptick in demand, Instacart hired 300,000 shoppers and scaled up their Care Team (customer support). They also worked with retail partners at some of the busiest locations to implement pre-opening and post-closing hours access for Instacart shoppers.

There’s a lot more to the equation than an increased labor force, however. In the case of Instacart, the service added a “Fast & Flexible” feature, which lets customers opt for the “first available shopper” rather than scheduling an order for a specific window.

Instacart has also implemented a new “Order Ahead” feature, which expands the delivery window from a week to two weeks ahead. A helpful hint is that shoppers can continue to add things to their cart right up until the moment when a shopper begins their order. (This option is available in high-demand locations now, and will roll out across North America in coming weeks.) 

Note: Available delivery windows are dependent upon individual store volume and shopper availability, and are updated in real time on a rolling basis. If you do not see a time available, don’t give up! Your chances of securing one now are a lot higher than they were a few weeks ago.

Have you noticed it’s been easier to get grocery delivery? Let us know in the comments!