retail news in context, analysis with attitude

TechCrunch reports that "as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the U.S., grocery delivery apps have begun seeing record numbers of daily downloads, according to new data from app store intelligence firm Apptopia. On Sunday, online grocery apps, including Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt, hit yet another new record for daily downloads for their respective apps, the firm says.

"Comparing the average daily downloads in February to yesterday (Sunday, March 15), Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt have seen their daily downloads surge by 218%, 160% and 124%, respectively … on Sunday, Instacart saw more than 38,500 downloads and Walmart Grocery saw nearly 54,000 downloads, the firm says. Shipt, though hitting record numbers, saw only 7,285 downloads on Sunday. To some extent, its lower figures could be due to Target’s move to integrate Shipt’s grocery delivery service, which it owns, into its main app."

More from the story:  "Several grocery delivery services, including Instacart and others, promoted the fact they would add a 'contactless' delivery option, which helps contribute to the huge sales boost. On Thursday, Instacart said its sales growth rates for the week was 10 times higher than the week before, and had increased by as much as 20 times in areas like California, New York, Washington and Oregon."

KC's View:

What we don't know is the degree to which this changed behavior will persist once the pandemic subsides.  It certainly is possible that people who didn't use these apps before will find that they like the experience, and that not going to the store gives them time to do a lot of other things that they'd rather do.

My feeling - and this may just be wishful thinking - is that to some degree, people will return top Main Street and bricks-and-mortar stores when the mood shifts to the positive.  They may feel that they've missed that physical connectivity during this time of social distancing, and will look for any opportunity to connect.

But … I think it will be incumbent on physical retailers to improve their games.  Mediocre, complacent retailing won't keep people in the stores, even if they return when the pandemic is over.  At the same time, I think it may be even more important for retailers to have effective and even proprietary e-commerce offerings that take advantage of people's changed perspectives.