If your schedule is jam-packed with things to do, the last thing you may feel like doing is grocery shopping. This is why personal grocery shopping is a rapidly growing industry.
You may think ordering groceries online and having them delivered to your door is something only wealthy people can enjoy, but that’s not true. The top three grocery shopping services today—Instacart, Shipt, and Peapod—are surprisingly affordable.
But which service should you choose? We’ve tested three grocery shopping services, and today you’ll learn the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best one for your situation.
Instacart: Simple, Fast, and Affordable
Instacart was founded in 2012 by Apoorva Mehta, a former Amazon employee. By 2017 the company was worth $3.4 billion.
You don’t need a subscription to use the service, making it a lot like food delivery services DoorDash and Uber Eats.
The Shopping Process
When you first visit the website, you just type in your zip code and you’ll have the option to choose from all of the available stores in your area.
In the Indianapolis metro area where these tests took place, the choices were plentiful. We could choose anything from Kroger to Whole Foods Market.
The browsing process for food is laid out in a similar way as a grocery store. You can shop by departments like produce or meats. You can also filter by brands, or whether foods are organic or kosher.
Prices didn’t seem marked up at all. I found most products lined up with the prices you’d find at most stores.
The buying process is equally convenient. As you browse through products, you just set the number of items you want to buy and click Add to cart.
Once you’ve added all of the items to the shopping cart, you’re ready to check out.
Just click My Carts at the top of the screen and you’ll see an itemized list of every product you’ve added.
Here, you can add or remove items or change the quantity of each if you wish.
When you’re ready to cash out and set up delivery, just click Checkout.
Instacart offers deliveries on short notice if you desire. You can get your groceries in as little as two hours if you order early enough.
You can see the time slots to choose from and the delivery fee.
$5.99 for someone to go pick up your groceries and deliver them to your door is a remarkable price.
For our test, we chose a timeslot of 4 to 5pm, and waited for the delivery to arrive.
The Mobile App
You can receive delivery confirmation and updates via the Instacart mobile app.
The app provided the current status of the shopper on a Google Map and an estimated delivery time.
The delivery arrived promptly at 4:30pm. The shopper was prompt and polite.
The Instacart shopping process is intuitive, quick, and very convenient. Prices were competitive and the service fee was nominal. Service was professional and prompt.
My only complaint: we had ordered small salad cucumbers, and the shopper selected large regular cucumbers instead. She had never texted us to ask if we wanted that substitution.
Instacart does offer an optional membership choice for an annual fee. For that fee, you can order groceries and have them delivered entirely free. If you plan to use Instacart a lot, this is a good option.
Shipt: Grocery Shopping with a Personal Touch
Shipt was founded in 2014 out of Birmingham, Alabama. The service has spread rapidly across the country since then.
The first thing we noticed upon searching our zip code is only Meier was offered as a grocery store in our area, even though there were several more listed by Instacart. The second thing we noticed was that to buy from Shipt, you need to sign up for a monthly subscription plan.
The Shopping Process
Shopping via the Shipt website is equally convenient as the other services tested. You can search for specific items, or use any of the tailored options on the main page.
Of course, if you’re like me and enjoy browsing grocery stores by aisle, you’ll want to use the Shop by Category option.
Prices of individual items here seemed to match store prices. Purchasing just requires setting the quantity and clicking Add to Cart.
When you’re done shopping and reviewed your cart, you’ll have the option to set a delivery time. Late-night deliveries are an option if you’re a night-owl. This was a pleasant surprise.
During the delivery setup process, you’ll be allowed to give your shopper instructions on what to do if your exact item isn’t available. Options are “Contact me”, “Use best judgement”, or “Don’t substitute”. We went with the “Contact me” option.
Once you choose your delivery option, you’ll see updates coming in via the mobile app.
The Mobile App and Delivery
Using the Shipt mobile app provides a nearly identical shopping experience as the site.
Unlike Instacart, the realtime updates aren’t as detailed. However, the personal shopper immediately texted me directly with status updates. She let us know when she was at the store, sent questions while shopping, and let me know when she was about to deliver.
The Shipt shopping experience is just as good as the other services tested here. The personal touch added by the shoppers themselves gives this service a leg up on the competition. However, where Shipt falls short is how they manage their pricing.
In this test, we ordered top sirloin steak. On the final invoice, after delivery, we were charged $21.41 for the steaks.
However, our shopper had actually purchased a package of steak that was on sale for only $13.00. This means Shipt pocketed the difference of just over $8.
Doing a little research I discovered that other Shipt customers have noticed the same issue. It appears Shipt shoppers try to find your selections at discounted prices (in-store) to boost the gap between what you’ve paid, and the actual cost.
The problem with this approach is that many items are only discounted in-store when they aren’t as fresh. If a customer is paying full price for something like produce or meat, they should be receiving the freshest item available. This experience definitely left us with a bad taste in the mouth, so to speak.
Also note: Make sure if you subscript with Shipt that you really want to keep using the service. Just a week after subscribing, Shipt billed our bank the entire year’s membership fee rather than monthly billing.
Other than those significant negatives, Shipt was an easy to use, efficient grocery shopping service with wonderful customer service.
Peapod: A Unique Online Grocery Store
Peapod was the original online grocery store. It was founded in 1989 by Andrew Parkinson and Thomas Parkinson. It was a service idea well ahead of its time.
With online grocery shopping services becoming ever more popular, Peapod is now coming into its own.
The Shopping Process
You’ll find the website is very much like all of the other grocery shopping services reviewed above.
You can browse through aisles, search for specific food, or use tailored options like “Peapod’s Fresh Picks” or “Meal Solutions”.
One unique thing about Peapod is that you don’t select a grocery store because Peapod is its own virtual grocery store. Like with most grocery stores, you’ll find special offers and discounts.
The company also has its own line of branded foods. These are usually less expensive than other brands.
Once you’re done shopping, you can review your order and add or remove items as you wish.
Like Instacart, Peapod does not require a subscription. You will only pay a fixed delivery fee.
With the excellent prices available on Peapod branded items, we found we were able to purchase a bit more food at the same cost as other grocery shopping services.
However, there’s a way to offset this service fee.
When you select your delivery time, Peapod offers large time slots that are heavily discounted because these are times when the Peapod truck is in your service area anyway.
Knocking off $4.00 like this removes most of the delivery fee. This is without paying for a subscription!
During our test, the Peapod delivery truck showed up right on time, and we even received a text notification when they pulled up to the driveway.
The Mobile App
The Peapod mobile app lets you do everything available on the website, but in addition you can also scan items in your pantry to quickly add them to your cart.
Peapod will text you notifications about your order. If you’ve chosen a large timeslot for your delivery, Peapod will also narrow that down to a specific window.
And the Winner Is…
All three of these grocery delivery services are alike in terms of website and mobile app functionality.
The differentiating factors include:
- Subscription required
- Item pricing and discounts
- Delivery fees
- Customer service
- Grocery store selection
To choose the service for you, consider the following:
- Shipt loses points for a required pricey subscription, lack of grocery store options, and pricing manipulation. It gains points for customer service. If you’re looking for a personal experience with your shopper and aren’t so concerned about price, Shipt is a decent option. However, of the three tested, it comes in the last place.
- Instacart loses points for impersonal customer service. However, it gains points for no subscription required, fair pricing, low delivery fees, and bonus points for grocery store options. If you’re looking for convenience, no hassle, and you have a strong preference for a specific grocery store in your area, Instacart is the best choice.
- Peapod loses points for no grocery store options and impersonal customer service. At the same time, it gains a lot of points for item pricing (great deals), no subscription required, and insignificant delivery fees. If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to get food delivered at the lowest possible price, Peapod is really the only way to go.
If you’re looking for other ways you can shop for things online, then you’ve got to take a look at MakeUseOf’s authoritative online shopping guide. It’ll help you buy even more things online, beyond just groceries.
Image Credit: AndreyPopov/Depositphotos