Contactless convenience: How the shopping experience has evolved in response to COVID-19

Cars+wait+in+line+to+pick+up+orders+placed+through+Hy-Vee%E2%80%99s+Aisles+Online+program.

Alyse Zuiderveen

Cars wait in line to pick up orders placed through Hy-Vee’s Aisles Online program.

Alyse Zuiderveen, Copy Editor

In a society motivated by convenience, the ease of online ordering and pickup is used by many to expedite the monotonous process of grocery shopping. 

While many grocery stores including Hy-Vee had implemented programs such as Aisles Online prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, other retail and grocery stores had to quickly adapt to a new normal of shopping which offered customers online ordering and contactless pickup. These programs remain popular as companies begin a return to normalcy. 

Craig Richard is a PV alumni who worked as an Aisles Online employee at Hy-Vee. He worked in the back room scanning and bagging items for customers and was able to notice the change in popularity with the program over the past few years. “Since Covid-19, Aisles Online has skyrocketed. Before Covid-19 hit we would average around 60 orders a day. Then during the outbreak we averaged around 300 orders a day,” he shared. “As of January of 2021 when I last worked, we were still averaging around 250 orders [per day].” 

Aisles Online is one of many grocery pickup options in the Quad Cities, however, online shopping popularity varies from store to store. 

Senior Sydney Zabel works at Fareway, which recently added an online pickup option, though it does not seem to be as popular as shopping in-store. “I think customers still enjoy going in-store to pick up groceries, mostly because they can pick out items for themselves,” Zabel shared. 

Zabel has found that customers are particular with their produce, which makes it difficult to order online since they can’t choose the items themselves. These perceived obstacles have created hesitancy with online ordering.

While Fareway may not use online pickup as much as other stores, Zabel elaborated on Fareway’s new practices after COVID. “[Fareway employees] are continuing to wipe down registers multiple times a day and wiping down carts and baskets after customers use them,” she said.

With an increased focus on cleanliness and customer safety, it is clear that grocery shopping will be permanently changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Online pickup encourages the evolution of a contactless society as a result of COVID-19. This change has been expected for a while and can be seen in many other ways, from stores discouraging cash payments to the increased publicity of apps such as Sam’s Club’s Scan and Go

Apps like Scan and Go encourage individuals to scan their items and pay for them through the app as they walk through the store. These apps help to avoid checkout lines and contact that could potentially pose a health threat to customers. 

While there does not seem to be one common method of contactless grocery shopping, stores continue to evolve their customer service and retention practices to allow shoppers to feel safe and increase convenience.