3 Takeaways from which Grocery Delivery Service Consumers Say is Best

Mar 30, 2020

Grocery delivery has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic as we’re all told to shelter in place. Grocery store and standalone delivery service websites have seen an increase in daily traffic. Walmart alone saw a 55% increase from March 1 through March 20, 2020. Instacart is set to hire 300,000 more shoppers. Despite the fact that some of these services have seen increased concerns about employee safety and healthcare rights (and with a strike hanging over the head of some of them), it’s clear that they’re not going away and that they provide a valuable service during this time of social distancing.

To help both consumers weigh which service is best and help brands understand which ones may emerge as the leader longer term, 4Sight pulled from the best source of real-time, unfiltered feedback: reviews on four services from Google Play. >29,000 from the past year in fact. And the learning is striking.

Takeaway #1: Satisfaction is low overall and declining especially over the past year.

A quick glance at star ratings on these apps does a disservice to any conclusions: ratings are aggregated over the history of reviews going back years. With Instacart, for example, their average star rating listed is 4.7. But over the past year it is 3.65 and 3.40 in the past quarter.

Instacart is not alone in seeing declines in overall satisfaction particularly over the past year. Shipt, Corner Shop, and Post Mates also declined. Which one was the “best” in Q1 2020 (and over the past two quarters? As the below illustrates, Instacart is the clear leader with an average star rating of 3.40 compared to ratings all below 3 for each of their competitors.

Takeaway #2: first time users are exploding, but less so for restaurant-focused delivery services.

While star ratings have trended down, the number of reviews mentioning using the apps for the first time has increased. For the grocery delivery services (Shipt, Corner Shop, and Instacart), 62% of the reviews mentioning a first-time use were in the first quarter of 2020. Post Mates, which is primarily restaurant delivery, saw less of an increase, with just under 25% (22.4%) of their reviews mentioning first time, suggesting less first time use for restaurant delivery at least on a percentage basis.

Takeaway #3: Operational issues continue to be the core negatives, especially for first time users.

The old adage that you only have one chance to make a good first impression definitely applies in this case. For the Q1 2020 quarter, 44% of Instacart’s “first time” reviews were negative, meaning 1 or 2 stars. Of those, the most pressing concern were delivery time (46%), hidden fees (20%), and costumers receiving the wrong order (20%). For Post Mates, a full 96% of first time reviewers left negative reviews, with the most common concerns being a never received order (33%), wrong order (11%), or wait time (9%).

While consumers may be slightly more patient with mistakes in grocery delivery in light of the alternative of going to the store themselves, their satisfaction clearly is low. With the Coronavirus keeping consumers inside and pushing them to try grocery delivery in the foreseeable future, a question that hangs over us is this: will these services be needed in such numbers when the threat of the virus dissipates? With such low (and declining) star ratings, will consumers (especially first-time users) give them another chance? Only time will tell as we track the consumer experience and especially first-time users in the coming months. One thing we know for sure: it will be different from what any of us expected only a month ago as is just about everything else.