Feighan: Online shopping eases the grocery trip frenzy

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Gripping my overflowing shopping cart as I walked out of a local grocery store a few years ago, I spotted a maroon minivan and snickered.

Both sliding doors of the parked minivan were wide open, revealing car seats, a stroller and other kid gear. The owner was nowhere sight.

What knucklehead left his doors wide open while they grocery-shopped, I thought to myself?

Then I recognized the car. It was mine.

Grocery-shopping can be a frenzied affair whether you have kids or not. We squeeze it in where we can and for many, it isn’t always pretty. It’s a start-to-finish dash to do it quickly, accurately and affordably — and not lose your sanity.

I usually rely on a grocery list during my shopping trips, but since I meal plan while I shop, it can take awhile. Add squirming kids to the mix — “Mom, can we get Star Wars fruit snacks? Mom, why is Captain America on the Doritos bag?” — and that’s another layer of stress.

So when Kroger announced earlier this month that it has expanded an online shopping service called ClickList that the grocer piloted in December at a Kroger in Northville, I took note. We already buy everything from books to birthday presents online. Why not groceries?

ClickList allows you to do all your grocery shopping from work, home, or anywhere you have Internet access. Go to kroger.com/clicklist, register to your account, and click what you want to buy. Twenty-four hours later, you can pull up outside Kroger and pay for and pick up your groceries. ClickList is free the first three times and then costs $4.95 per trip.

“What we keep hearing over and over again is ‘I’m a busy mom, a busy professional,'" says Ken McClure, consumer communications manager for the Kroger Store of Michigan, who says ClickList will be added to more stores as they are modified. “This is a service we can provide to cut that grocery shopping experience down significantly.”

Kroger unveiled its latest ClickList location last week at a $20 million new store on 13 Mile Road in Roseville.

Kroger isn’t the only grocer with an online shopping service. Meijer’s Curbside program is now available at five stores in Michigan, including one in Canton. Curbside lets customers order groceries online and pick them up in as quick as an hour depending on the size of the order.

“With the quicker turn-around time and wide selection of commonly shopped items ... the input we are receiving is incredible,” says Joe Hirschmugl, Meijer’s public relations manager, in an email. “We are seeing 75 percent of weekly orders now coming from repeat customers.”

Testing out ClickList at Kroger’s Northville store on North Center Street last week, I logged into my account and my “favorites” popped up. I could’ve easily clicked “select all” and my shopping would’ve been done in minutes.

But I wanted to peruse Kroger’s site. In a matter of minutes, I had everything I needed. I clicked “Checkout” and reserved a pickup time for 24 hours later. The next day, an associate not only brought out my bagged groceries, but insisted on putting them in my car. And this time, I remembered to close the doors.

McClure believes online grocery shopping is the future: “We have to engage with people the way they want to be engaged.”