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Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

Posted August 01, 2011 8:36 AM

While you're waiting for a subway train, rapid transit, or a bus while commuting to or from work, you can now do your grocery shopping virtually, at least in South Korea. Using your smartphone, you click images of items, then pay, hopefully receiving them right after you get home. Would you opt for such a system if available in your area?

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#1

Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/01/2011 1:10 PM

So how do you pick the ripe melon from the bunch without thumping, smelling and caressing your produce?

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#2
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Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/01/2011 11:43 PM

I'm the cook in my house and do all the food shopping. I am in good health and can at age 72 drive a car in virtually any conditions.

Melon is a good example of what I probably wouldn't buy remotely. Pretty much the case for all produce, butcher department meats, most bakery stuff and some dairy. Packaged foods of familiar brands are a different story; but I'm going to want to see the expiration date on some items.

Also I'm not one who adheres rigidly to a prepared shopping list. Also I tend to price shop where I might buy any one of several brands. The ability to rapidly scan the offerings in the real market is a big advantage over what can be done remotely by a communication device.

Another issue is the cost of shipping versus the cost of going to the store. This depends a lot on getting economies of scale. There's a set of costs associated with shopping the traditional way. They can be spread out by including several stops on a single trip. By the same token the cost of shipping/delivery of the food purchase spreads out further the larger the shopping list.

Then there is the factor of buying several items for a specific recipe. If one is not available the rest are not needed. But I don't learn that till sometime later. In the market the unavailable item is immediately obvious and substitutions can be made right there.

But suppose I place an internet order for the recipe ingredients and one ends up "back-ordered"? And I don't know this until the delivery is made. Bottom line here is that the internet supermarket is going to have to convince me that their incidence of such failures is low and that I won't have to pay the cost of a process full of redundant checks by shipping clerks.

Bottom line here is that at least half of my food shopping trips are going to require a trip to the market and direct contact with some items before purchase.

But, and this is an important issue, any reduction in my above mentioned travel capabilities will sway decisions over how to shop.

Another issue is that certain non-perishable food items not available in the local area might be easier to get through a well organized internet seller.

The problem with this idea taking off in the USA is that the added cost of the service makes it a non-starter for most of us. I know there are frequent experiments here in the USA and there is a definite niche market being currently served. But the costs of the service will keep it a niche market unless someone comes up with a really clever new business model that fits the way we live here.

Ed Weldon

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#3

Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/02/2011 9:44 AM

This is quite similar to the Fresh Direct and Pea Pod services already offered in urban areas in the Northeast. When I lived in NYC I used Fresh Direct a number of times. It was reliably direct, but often a little too fresh. Produce was hit or miss, and often came under ripe (although to me this was preferable to over ripe). But, for other items like bread, cereal, and other grocery items, it was great. Delivery beer is also one of the greatest inventions imaginable. Surprisingly, prices were actually better, even including the delivery fee, than the local markets, I assume because the delivery services didn't need a brick and mortar facility within the city limits, and didn't need to pay retail staff. Also grocery prices in New York are absurdly high, making it easier for these delivery services to compete.

However, I don't see this being such a good option outside of urban areas. Delivery distances grow large quickly as population density drops off, and grocery prices in rural areas are much more reasonable. Also, I doubt that a delivery service would have access to locally grown produce, which I believe is a big draw for many shoppers.

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#4

Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/02/2011 11:45 AM

No way, even when I have tried shopping for food online the results have been terrible!

Spencer.

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#5

Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/02/2011 1:38 PM

Absolutely not! Modern technology is taking away our humanity, making us slaves to technology. Human tasks like shopping, cooking, raising children are being made less important in a busy world. Who is so busy that they can't do human things?

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Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

08/03/2011 12:30 AM

Ronseto - I hate to have to say this but the next gereration's "human things" are different from yours and mine. And I'm pretty sure that 100 years ago our counterparts were saying much the same thing.

And a hundred years from now? Who knows? Perhaps our great, great grandchildren will be reminiscing about a time when people could go to the store and buy almost any food in any quantity they wanted.

Ed Weldon

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#7

Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

09/07/2011 12:19 AM

It is a welcome move for elders,the sick and those who have no time to waste in Malls and in travelling through traffic jams and adverse climatic conditions. Fresh vegetables and fruits should be replaced by the Malls if customer don't like the state. Also if shipping or transport is free more customers will be attracted with increased sales. in one trip the Mall driver can deliver items to many customers which will save money and time.

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Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

09/07/2011 12:25 AM

Still a better idea is to use mobile market(on wheels) to go from street to street and door to door so that housewives and elders can inspect items and buy without wasting time in travelling to the Mall.

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Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

09/07/2011 2:19 AM

I grew up (to age 11) living in an Eastern US city in the 1940's. Our house was in a moderately upscale neighborhood. A small grocery store was a 3 minute walk and a meat market were a 4-5 minutes further. Dad worked in a nearby city and commuted by train. We owned a 2nd hand 1939 sedan which only got used on weekends for trips and outings. Mom didn't work and usually shopped for food and house stuff by walking to the market. Major shopping trips to the city center were by electric trolley car which ran on the same Main street as the stores.

We had a daily delivery from a milkman and also a large production bakery. They used light standup delivery trucks common for the time. The bakery truck was battery powered. The milk man delivered a quart of milk every day around dawn and picked up the empty glass bottles. Any extra order was written by Mom on an order slip and put in the top of an empty milk bottle. The bakery truck would come at a later time every day. The driver would bring a tray of fresh loaves of bread and other baked stuff to our door and ring the bell. Mom would look at the tray and select anything special or give special orders. I think both the milk and the bakery companies sold on credit with us paying a periodic bill. I was too young to pay attention to those details.

That system worked very nicely all the years we lived there. Enough families on the street bought from those folks so there was economy of scale in the delivery process. I do not remember if there were competitors working in our neighborhood. The key to the bakery model was that someone had to be home to meet the delivery. It was practical for the milkman to leave dairy goods in a closeable box on the doorstep early in the day while the air was still cool. In freezing weather if Mom or I didn't get the milk in soon enough we would be greeted by a bottle with this little column of frozen milk pushing out of the bottle with the cardboard cap on top.

A delivery box system for baked goods didn't work at our house because there were too many critters around that would get into the food and no good place to put a box. Besides some days Mom would just wave off the delivery guy. Other days she would get several things. So this is an example of what worked before we started driving our cars to the supermarkets of today.

To me the key to a modern version this system would be a refrigerated delivery lockbox facing outside to accept deliveries. (the internet ordering part is easy) At 5 degrees Celsius a delivery box would keep frozen food cold enough for several hours except for a few things like ice cream. There's lots of creative thinking could go into coming up with the right delivery boxes for various customer situations.

Ed Weldon

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Re: Would You Opt for Virtual Supermarket Shopping?

09/07/2011 3:01 AM

If organised properly even today it will work. For instance delivery vans or converted buses should give a time table for each condo as well as for each street for the consumers to come to the doorstep and buy by paying either cash or have an account to be settled weekly or monthly on pay days.

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