The Kroger Co. has quietly begun testing a 30-minute online grocery delivery in the Cincinnati area.
Called Kroger Rush, the service is being piloting with select customers, who can order quickly needed items like lunch or dinner online and have them delivered within 30 minutes, according to Kristal Howard, head of corporate communications and media relations.
“Kroger is committed to redefining the customer experience through innovative solutions, services and products. Kroger Rush is one of several ongoing tests we have in market to further develop our portfolio of seamless customer experiences,” Howard said in a statement. “The pilot allows us to test and learn in a retail setting, gaining useful insights from both customers and associates.”
Kroger hasn’t officially announced Rush, but the Cincinnati-based supermarket retailer has posted an FAQ page for the service on its website. Howard didn’t provide further details about Kroger Rush.
To place orders through the service, customers must download the Kroger Rush app, and delivery costs $5.95, with the first order free for new users, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier, which first reported the pilot. The app is available in iOS and Android versions. Kroger started testing Rush within the past month at stores in Oakley and Newport, Ohio, and the service is available to customers within a three-mile radius, the Courier said.
“Kroger Rush is a need-it-now delivery service, offering immediate order processing and quick delivery. To schedule a delivery for a specific time in the future, please place a delivery order through the Kroger app,” the Kroger Rush FAQ page said.
The service focuses on deliveries for “unplanned essential needs,” including food and nonfood items. “Need-it-now items consist of everyday essentials that you may have a sudden need for. You just realized you’re out of toilet paper. You stayed late at work and didn’t plan dinner. Or you’re hosting a party and ran out of beer,” the website said.
Kroger noted in the FAQ that it strives to deliver in 30 minutes through the service but may not always be able to do so. Because of the fast processing, customers can’t edit or cancel orders or view previous orders. Groceries are shopped and delivered by Kroger employees.
“Our goal is to deliver every order within 30 minutes. However, there are a number of factors that impact that time: number of orders received, shopper/driver availability and order size,” the company said.
According to the Kroger Rush page, fresh items like produce, deli, meat and seafood and alcoholic beverages can be ordered through the service. For orders including alcohol, a person age 21 or older with a photo ID must be on hand to receive the order.
“Rush orders can be placed between 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. (with delivery going until 9 p.m.),” the FAQ said. “Alcohol cannot be ordered outside of the Kroger Rush order placement hours of 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.”
The Rush service continues Kroger’s steady expansion of online grocery delivery in the face of rising e-commerce competition from Amazon/Whole Foods, Walmart and Target (which owns Shipt), among others.
Last August, Kroger launched its own delivery service called Ship, a direct-to-customer platform that enables consumers to order from a selection of groceries at ship.kroger.com and have them delivered to their door. Delivery via Kroger Ship, made by a package carrier, is free for orders over $35 and carries a $4.99 fee for smaller orders. Also that month, Kroger unveiled a major expansion with Instacart that extended the delivery provider’s same-day service to 1,600 stores overall by the fall. The company is testing grocery delivery via Nuro driverless vehicles in Houston as well, after the completion of a pilot in Scottsdale, Ariz.
As of the close of its 2018 fiscal year in early February, Kroger offered online grocery pickup at 1,581 of its supermarkets and provided home delivery and/or pickup service to 91% of the households in its market area. The company expects to reach 100% of the country by the end of 2019 with the full integration of Kroger Ship. Digital sales rose 58% and had a roughly $5 billion annual run rate at the end of fiscal 2018, and Kroger said it’s trending toward a $9 billion annual run rate going forward.
Kroger, too, is working on the back end to fuel e-commerce growth. Last week, in Monroe, Ohio, the retailer and online grocery partner Ocado broke ground on the first of 20 automated warehouses they plan to open over the next two years. That facility and another planned for Groveland, Fla., are slated to become operational in 2021. A third customer fulfillment center (CFC) is planned for the Mid-Atlantic region. The companies plan to replicate the CFC model across the United States to fulfill online orders from customers.