Eco-Friendly Grocery Delivery - Part 2 - Research & Competitive Analysis

This post is the first in a serialized case study on making grocery delivery more eco-friendly. Start in the middle? Find posts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 here.

As a solution-oriented person, it’s hard sometimes to see a problem and not start jotting down ideas to fix the issue immediately. After watching what I considered a wasteful number of bags being used for a grocery delivery order, my first, indignant thought was “Why don’t they just switch over to reusable bags?”

Oh, how naive past Jessie was. While it’s true that an obvious solution can often be the most effective to implement, any good UX case study must involve some research before jumping into wireframing solutions. In my experience, an hour of preparation can make the research that follows that much easier. I used a template from Miro to focus in on how to proceed with the research phase. 

The result of this brainstorming session was the need for two surveys: one for current delivery customers to assess their interest in environmentally conscious practices, and one for non-users to determine whether eco-friendly practices factor into their desire to use a delivery service.

I streamlined the creation of this survey by asking one screening question before funneling the respondents towards sets of questions based on how often they use grocery delivery services. I decided to treat anyone who used grocery delivery services more than once a month as a frequent user and users who said they have never used it or used one once a month or less towards the infrequent user pool.

The results of the survey were fascinating. My immediate takeaway was that the majority of respondents, regardless of use frequency, had eco-friendly habits at home, prefer reusable bags, and prefer not to use plastic produce bags when they grocery shop for themselves. I was also happy to note that 80% of infrequent users had considered using grocery delivery more frequently, from which I concluded that the pool of potential customers is large and open to conversion. This was further supported by the 30% of infrequent respondents who responded affirmatively to the statement that grocery delivery services can be wasteful, and the 81.4% who were more likely to use a service that included a reusable-bag trade-in feature.

Another important issue to these infrequent users was the price of delivery: in response to why they do not use these services more frequently, the high fee of delivery was a frequent answer.

This brief survey was not exhaustive but it was a simple and effective way to determine if the business problem was worth investigating further. In my opinion, especially in markets like Austin where eco-friendly practices are de rigueur, the survey results indicated that pursuing solutions to institute eco-friendly practices had the potential to attract new customers and increase brand loyalty for frequent users.

The next phase of research was to look into the trends of green marketing as well as which grocery delivery services were providing any of these eco-friendly solutions. 

Consumer Reports ranked the six best grocery delivery services as such: 

  1. Shipt

  2. Amazon Prime Now

  3. Peapod

  4. Fresh-Direct

  5. Instacart

  6. Amazon Fresh

While this survey did not rank the eco-friendly features of nationwide grocery delivery services, the lack of any related information on any of these major brands’ websites is telling. Based on my survey results and the upward trend of consumers spending more for eco-friendly products and services, this is an area where these companies could be setting themselves apart, but aren’t doing enough to break out of the pack.

There is one new-on-the-scene grocery delivery company that is starting out with a green mindset: The Wally Shop. This NYC-based grocery delivery service has zero-waste at the core of its method. Reading the “how it works” page of their website, The Wally Shop seems similar to other delivery services at first. A user creates an account, shops on the service’s website, and selects a delivery time. The difference comes in here: “All of our groceries come packaged in reusable packaging - think mesh bags, glass jars, and totes. Once finished, simply return the packaging to a courier on a future delivery and get your deposit back as store credit.” With The Wally Shop, your groceries are also delivered via bike courier, further reducing the carbon footprint your grocery shop has on the environment.

Image from the wally shop

While the Wally Shop only services NYC neighborhoods right now, the slow propagation of zero-waste grocery stores like Nada in Vancouver and Precycle in Brooklyn in addition to market trends indicate that a multi-city grocery delivery service that adopts more eco-friendly practices would have a significant boost in goodwill and potential customer acquisition.

In addition to researching the current market potential for adding eco-friendly services to grocery delivery, I also researched techniques to reduce the environmental impact of grocery shopping in order to prioritize how to adjust services. 

This article from Bustle was a great starting point for eco-friendly shopping. The list of “hacks” includes not wrapping produce in plastic, shopping seasonally, and buying in bulk, all of which are features I could incorporate into a redesign of a grocery delivery app. 

One of the surprising findings from my research, also mentioned in this Bustle article, was a rebuttal to my initial assumption that the best way to reduce the number of plastic bags was to switch to cotton tote bags. The cost of pesticides and water for a crop of cotton actually makes new cotton totes more negatively environmentally impactful than certain plastic bags. 

Another important factor that came to the forefront in researching this topic was the negative environmental effects of driving. It’s no surprise that driving less is a top tip from sources for helping reduce personal as well as enterprise level carbon footprints, but I didn’t find a ton of information about how to reduce the impact in mid-range activity like gig-economy delivery services. During my ideation phase, finding ways to make delivery driving less environmentally impactful will be a fun challenge!

In order to synthesize the information of my research, I decided to do a SWOT analysis of the problem as it stands, SWOT standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

My conclusions from the research phase of this project have been manifold, but by doing a SWOT analysis I feel like I can narrow the focus of this project to prioritize a few paths that would require the least amount of organizational effort for the biggest impact. In my next post, I will lay out the scope of my case study as well as document my ideation process!


Making Grocery Delivery More Eco-Friendly: A Serialized Case Study

1 - Introduction

2 - Research & Competitive Analysis

3 - Ideating & Wireframing

4 - Usability Testing

5 - Conclusions