Peapod was one of the earliest Internet startups to offer grocery delivery services, so it only makes sense that the company would strive to stay at the forefront of the grocery sector – now more than ever, as the changing grocery landscape threatens to cull the weakest players in the space.
The Illinois-based service already helps busy people shop faster and smarter with an intuitive app that helps them save money as well as time on restocking pantry staples, fresh foods and meal solutions. It delivers to homes and businesses in 24 metro markets and has more than 200 pickup locations.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s Dash Wand already lets customers use voice commands to order groceries from its AmazonFresh service. Put them together and what do you get? “Ask Peapod,” the hands-free voice ordering capability that lets shoppers update their grocery carts on the fly.
Now that the eCommerce giant has opened up the Alexa Skills Kit to third parties, any developer can create new skills for the digital assistant or build Alexa’s existing skills into their business model – in most cases, free of charge on Amazon Web Services.
Peapod lost no time becoming the next grocery delivery provider to build an Alexa skill. “Ask Peapod” enables shoppers to add items to their weekly grocery carts with nothing more than a voice command as soon as they realize they’re running low.
“The beauty of online grocery shopping is that you can add to your order throughout the week and at the very moment you remember that you need something,” said Cat de Merode, Peapod’s vice president of product. “Our customers often visit Peapod multiple times throughout the week while completing their orders. Now, as soon as a shopper thinks of an item, they have the option of adding it to their cart via Alexa, their desktop or our award-winning mobile app for the ultimate convenience.”
Alexa has access to Peapod’s full assortment, from fresh produce and deli items to natural and organic foods – even prepared foods and easy-prep meal kits. Alexa can also reorder whatever was on the shopping list last week, then let customers know when to expect the delivery.
The new skill takes advantage of the fact that more than half of Amazon Echo users station the device in their kitchen. Despite all the skills Alexa has learned, setting a timer is still among the most popular. With the shrewd eye it’s demonstrated over the years, Peapod saw an opportunity to build on that.
Peapod was founded in 1989 (and, fun fact, it was almost named “IPOD,” for “Information and Product On Demand”). Its online grocery shopping services were provided in partnership with Chicago’s Jewel supermarket, Columbus, Ohio’s Kroger, San Francisco’s Safeway and Houston’s Randall’s.
The company launched its website in 1996 and expanded into the Northeast through a partnership with Stop & Shop. Five years later, Royal Ahold (which owns Stop & Shop) bought the company and Peapod canceled all its other contracts.
In 2012, around the time that mobile apps were blowing up, Peapod introduced one of its own that allowed customers to order groceries from their phones and have them delivered later the same day.
“Launching ‘Ask Peapod’ on Alexa was a natural innovation for Peapod as we continue to create real meal solutions that fit into normal at-home behaviors,” said de Merode. “We love new technologies, particularly when they fit so naturally into household planning.”
In Other News…
Wegmans is delivering groceries to customers in Chestnut Hill, Westwood and Burlington, Mass. and has plans to expand the service to its fourth and final location in the state, Northborough. The company has plans to open two new Massachusetts locations by 2018.
Michigan grocer Meijer has added beer, wine and spirits to its established grocery delivery service due to popular demand. “We’ve received an incredible amount of feedback from customers wanting to take advantage of our large selection of craft beers and wine,” Vice President of Digital Shopping for Meijer Art Sebastian said. Valid ID must be presented both at the time of ordering and at the point of delivery.
Oklahoma’s Jumbo Foods rolled out its online shopping and pickup service this week. Customers can now order via web or mobile app and pick up their groceries as soon as two hours later at the grocer’s West Willow location. Jumbo Foods President Gerald Blevins said the move was based on customer demand. “We wanted to be the first in the market to roll this out and to offer this service to our customers,” he said.
Amazon has earned governmental favor to start selling groceries on the Indian subcontinent. The eCommerce giant reportedly plans to invest $500 million in the food segment as it capitalizes on increasing Internet penetration in the country. This good news for Amazon probably spells bad news for local rival Flipkart.
German discount grocer Lidl is eyeing Ohio as its next conquest in the U.S. after opening its first American stores in Virginia and the Carolinas last month. Next up? Possibly Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and/or Delaware, according to Lidl’s website.
Central Telegraph has compiled a list of ways shoppers can save more than $2,000 a year on groceries. Among them: navigate “specials” wisely, shop around, and do the math. If time is money, it’s possible that some of these tips will cost shoppers more than they’re worth.