Executive Briefing

Online grocery delivery was built for convenience. It’s now essential infrastructure.

And it’s showing its cracks under the strain of demand.

While “social distancing” at home this week to help slow the spread of Covid-19, one of the few feel-good — or at least feel-normal — experiences was being able to successfully order groceries online and receive them just a few hours later via (greatly appreciated) Amazon delivery workers.

But even beyond the obvious privilege, I feel like one of the lucky ones: A quick Twitter search reveals many frustrated shoppers, widespread problems with orders and deliveries, few available delivery windows, and overloaded customer service departments.

Online grocery shopping was built for convenience, and in normal times, functions pretty well that way, still handling a small percentage of overall grocery spending. But as US cities shut down, and as tens of millions stay home to help “flatten the curve,” grocery delivery has become essential infrastructure. And as demand spikes, it’s showing its cracks.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported entirely by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my twice-weekly, member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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