With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spurring social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders across the United States, the demand for online grocery and food delivery has skyrocketed. In an attempt to meet what it calls an "unprecedented demand," Amazon is waitlisting new customers ordering groceries online.
The e-commerce company, which offers grocery delivery and pickup through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery, announced the change Sunday as part of a series of updates aimed at tempering increased safety protocols like social distancing of employees with efforts to meet the demand for grocery delivery.
"We are temporarily asking new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery and pickup customers to sign up for an invitation to use online grocery delivery and pickup," Stephenie Landry, Amazon's vice president of grocery, wrote in a recent company blog post. "We're increasing capacity each week and will invite new customers to shop every week."
According to Landry, the need to implement increased safety protocols such as daily temperature checks of employees, enhanced sanitation protocols, and new social distancing guidelines for employees and in-store customers has limited the company's ability to ramp up its grocery delivery services. "Despite these challenges, we’re working hard to improve the grocery delivery experience," Landry said Sunday.
In an effort to improve its grocery delivery service for existing customers, Amazon recently expanded the number of Whole Foods Market stores able to fulfill Whole Foods Market pickup orders from 80 to more than 150. The company announced Sunday that it plans to continue expanding the number of stores available for grocery pickup as the pandemic continues. According to Reuters, Amazon currently owns and operates 487 Whole Foods stores throughout the country.
Additional efforts to meet the increased demand for grocery delivery and pickup included plans to hire an additional 100,000 people and adjust the store hours for a select number of Whole Foods Markets to enable them to focus exclusively on fulfilling online grocery orders.
But Landry acknowledged Sunday that as demand for grocery delivery has soared, many customers have found it difficult to secure an open delivery or pickup slot. While the company said it has increased its order capacity by more than 60%, it said high demand and social distancing limitations on capacity would likely continue to make finding an open delivery window a challenge.
In an effort to alleviate that problem, Amazon announced Sunday it would launch a new feature enabling current customers to virtually stand in line, so to speak. "This feature will give delivery customers a virtual 'place in line' and will allow us to distribute the delivery windows on a first-come, first-served basis," Landry wrote.
While Amazon has not specified how many new customers will be invited to shop each week under the new model, the company isn't likely to completely abandon new shoppers altogether. That being said, those looking to place Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market delivery orders for the first time should now expect more of a wait.
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