Get Prepared People: Out of Stock Items Are Making It Difficult for Grocery Delivery Services to Find Items

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jeremy Fetters spends his days shopping for other people as a contract worker for Shipt, Target’s third-party delivery business.

In the early days of the pandemic, the 41-year-old former bartender kept a giant pack of toilet paper in his car. He would give a free roll to customers whenever he couldn’t find any at the store to fill their orders. Fetters has driven out of his way to hunt down a pack of chicken breast. When he sees cold or cough medicine on customers’ lists, he sometimes buys them a small plant, flower or “get well” balloon.

In a crowded delivery landscape, Shipt is using customer relationships to retain both the families who order from the service and the gig workers who shop for it — and ultimately, to increase sales.

Founded in 2014, Shipt has grown significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers sought safe and convenient ways to shop. Sales for the same-day service more than quadrupled in the fiscal year ended Jan. 30, compared with the year prior. Its pool of gig workers, which it calls shoppers, tripled to 300,000 from the start of the pandemic to the end of last year, according to the company.

“Our shoppers matter. … They’re our secret sauce,” said Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso. “They’re what sets us apart from the competition.”

Since August, customers have had the option when placing an order to request the same shopper who picked out their items before. Shipt also added a feature that flags customers’ dietary restrictions, such as a gluten-free diet. Over time, that shopper gets to know a person’s preferences, too. This means shoppers can recommend an appealing substitution when an item is out of stock, reach out for last-minute shopping list additions or even suggest items to add to a basket.

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Source: CNBC