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What is Online Grocery Shopping?

K. Testa
K. Testa

Online grocery shopping is a way of buying food and other household necessities using a web-based shopping service. There are two basic methods that people can use to purchase these items online. One is to order them from a local grocery store that participates in online shopping. A customer can then arrange for a home delivery directly from the store, or he can pick up his order at the store once an employee has assembled it. Another common practice is to order groceries from a large company, such as Amazon or Netgrocer, that will ship the items to one’s home.

Ordering groceries online became popular in the 1990s, in the United States, during what has been called the dot-com boom. The popularity was short-lived, however, and several online shopping services faced bankruptcy. Over the next few years, some of them survived economic hardship to remain strong in the market, and today there are numerous online grocery retailers. Many market experts currently feel that online grocery shopping is a profitable concept and will continue to grow in popularity.

Online grocery shopping allows consumers to purchase food without leaving home.
Online grocery shopping allows consumers to purchase food without leaving home.

Grocery shoppers have local, national, and international options available to them. Some U.S.-based companies provide delivery throughout the country, while others have limited service areas. For those searching for unique, organic, or international products, there are stores that sell those products online, as well. Many of them offer international delivery, but shipping policies and prices may vary according to the customer’s particular location.

People shopping online for groceries use their credit or debit card.
People shopping online for groceries use their credit or debit card.

A grocery delivery service can be a convenient option for anyone, including the elderly and other people with limited mobility or a lack of transportation. Busy families also tend to take advantage of online grocery shopping services. When picking up an order at the grocery store, customers can usually specify a pickup window, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes at some stores to four hours at others. Other retailers offer next-day pick up or delivery. Deliveries normally include a service charge, and sometimes a fuel charge as well. Orders from a large online company are usually packed at a warehouse, not a grocery store, and then are shipped via a commercial shipping service to the recipient.

Online grocery shopping can have several advantages. If a customer has a specific list of items to buy, he or she may be less likely to deviate from it by making impulse purchases while browsing store aisles. In addition, shoppers can usually use online and manufacturer’s coupons with their orders for more savings when ordering online from the local grocery store. Large companies, such as Amazon, typically waive shipping charges on orders over a certain amount, or for regular customers with a subscription.

There are also some perceived disadvantages to online grocery shopping. For people who order in small quantities, the service and delivery fees may not be worth the convenience of shopping from home. In addition, some merchants have a limited selection, and customers may not receive the exact items they want. Many of the larger companies do not offer fresh produce or refrigerated items. Since different companies offer different products, some people choose to do all of their grocery shopping online, while others order only certain products from specialty merchants.

Discussion Comments


I shop online for groceries because I can check out different stores and compare their prices. It's not really possible to do that in real life, although when you shop at stores yourself, you can check out the clearance section.

Even that is not an issue anymore because many online groceries now have the same clearances that they have in the store, so you can still take advantage of discounts.

I don't know why anyone would want to shop at stores physically. It just takes too long and you can use that time for something more important. Especially at weekends, those queues for the registers can drive you crazy. Plus, when you shop online, you don't have to pay for gas, you don't have to carry your groceries back and it's cheaper.


The best part about online grocery shopping is that you can have your groceries delivered to you after you arrive home from a holiday. Or you can have it delivered to the place you are visiting by ordering ahead of time.

Before I go away on a holiday, I clean my fridge and use up all the perishables. So when I return, that means I have to go grocery shopping and get everything I need. The problem is that I'm so tired when I reach home that all I want to do is get some sleep. So it used to be a problem to find something to eat at home that day or breakfast the next morning.

Now though, I go on my grocery store's website before I get on the plane, put in an order for everything I need and set it up to be delivered to my place in an hour of two of my arrival. I don't have to step out of the house and I have all my groceries! Online grocery shopping is definitely a blessing.


My roommate and I would online grocery shop when we were interning in the city. We didn't have a car and the supermarket was too far away from us. So we would order our groceries from a local grocery store's website. It was definitely convenient and everything was delivered to our door.

One thing I did not like about is that the fresh produce was not always fresh and if they were out of a product, they would replace it with another brand. I'm very particular about selecting my fruits and vegetables and I prefer certain brands over others, so in that regard, I was not terribly pleased.

But it was definitely good for buying non-perishable and heavy items like cereals, canned foods, soda, water and cleaning products. I would definitely recommend online shopping for those kind of groceries. You can buy a lot and stock up. That way you don't have to carry it and the delivery cost is worth it.

What my roommate and I did until the end of our internship was to order those food items online and then go to a farmer's market that was nearby for fresh produce. This worked out perfect for us.

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    • Online grocery shopping allows consumers to purchase food without leaving home.
      By: Leo Lintang
      Online grocery shopping allows consumers to purchase food without leaving home.
    • People shopping online for groceries use their credit or debit card.
      By: karelnoppe
      People shopping online for groceries use their credit or debit card.