A personal touch

Shipt has taken grocery shopping online

Shipt provides shopping and delivery of grocery items.

WILMINGTON — On a Thursday afternoon, Hannah Shreckengost, 21, arrives at Whole Foods market. While not a usual grocery trip for herself, Shreckengost is one of many personal, independent contract shoppers for Shipt. Her list is not her own but curated through the Shipt mobile application. Olive oil, produce, milk; all items she is shopping for today. Through the application, she scans the barcode label of a product, confirms it’s the correct brand for the customer and places it in her shopping cart.
“I have seen all sorts of people, a lot of elderly people who are glad to be able to not go to the store themselves, busy stay at home moms,” Shreckengost said of the Shipt customer base she’s encountered.
But she said it’s really about convenience for all ages.
“I’ve delivered to a girl who is just about my age, a woman who lived in a townhouse at Carolina Beach by herself, it’s all kinds of people, young and old,” she said.
What one could describe as the Uber of grocery shopping, Shipt originally started as a same-day delivery service for online orders from big box retailers. While CEO Bill Smith received great feedback from the business model, he discovered what people really wanted delivered was their groceries.
Launching in Birmingham, Ala., in May 2015, Shipt has continue to grow, said Julie Coop, outreach and events team lead for Shipt.
“Since our first launch two years ago, Shipt has expanded to more than 40 cities across the nation,” Coop said. “We are fortunate to have wonderful regional and national partners who have contributed to an unprecedented amount of growth.”
And it seems customers are happy, too.
“We’ve found people nationwide are truly starved for time and we’re proud to give them that time back so they can focus more on what’s most important to them,” Coop added.
Students and those looking for some extra income can get involved and become shoppers.
“It was simple. I did the initial application, they got back to me, I did a recorded interview and then there’s a background check and that’s all,” Shreckengost said of the process to become a personal shopper. “I try to go [grocery shopping] just about every day. I’m hoping to do it a lot over the summer, but also once school starts again because it’s so flexible.”
For “pinging” the shoppers, they receive a text notification on their cellphone stating the store and items desired with 60 seconds to either accept or decline. Shipt aims to have a one-hour delivery window. Shreckengost said on average she is purchasing 15 to 20 items for her customers, but some shopping lists range from just a few pickups to an entire cart.
While some companies like Blue Apron and Plated are focused on curating specific meals, Shipt is focused on the grocery shopping experience. For those who are particular about their groceries, customers are able to leave notes for the shoppers under items requested to avoid that overripe banana or to make sure the shopper picks up soon-to-be ripe mangoes.
From providing a part-time job for college students to helping busy stay-at-home moms, Shipt has changed the landscape for traditional grocery shopping. Shipt customer Sandy Wheeler-Pelkey said she first came across the service through a web search and was intrigued by the signup bonus of a first free delivery. Like many, the convenience factor also played a role.
“The thought of not having to go the grocery store every time I needed something was appealing,” said Wheeler-Pelkey. “I have had nothing but pleasant experiences. I have also called Shipt when there was not an available slot open because I needed some small party platters delivered and they accommodated my needs and put up the time slot and it was filled within an hour.”
Another bonus, she said, is it also helps decrease the all-too-often “impulse buy.”
Shipt is expanding through the Southeast and assists shoppers and customers in cities like Asheville, Charlotte and Wilmington, and has plans to be even bigger.
“We want to take Shipt nationwide,” said Coop. “With Shipt, you don’t have to compromise quality for convenience. We’re proud to offer a highly personalized and positive customer experience and we know that will take us very far.”