Amazon’s new grocery delivery feature reserves a virtual place in line

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  • Amazon has created a new tool to help customers find a grocery delivery slot when demand is surging.
  • Amazon’s vice president of grocery, Stephenie Landry, told Recode this week that the company added the option to sign up to be notified when a delivery slot is available. When the space opens up, customers will have two hours to place their order.
  • The new feature will be made available to Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods shoppers in places where Amazon sees a spike in demand. 
  • Amazon and other grocery delivery services saw a major increase in online orders earlier this year when the coronavirus outbreak hit the US. Frustrated shoppers reported refreshing stores’ websites late at night to find open time slots.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon is adding a new feature to help desperate shoppers secure a grocery delivery slot. 

Amazon’s vice president of grocery, Stephenie Landry, told Recode’s Jason Del Rey this week that the company created a solution for times when there’s a surge in delivery demand. If there are no delivery slots available when a customer goes to place their order, they will now be able to sign up to be notified when there is a slot available — essentially, a virtual spot in line. If a space opens up, the customer will have two hours to place their order. Amazon has tested the feature in the UK and San Jose so far, Landry told Recode.

The feature will be available for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods shoppers, but it will only appear in places where Amazon sees major increases in demand.

“One thing that if I could have a magic wand and do over in the early part of the pandemic, a feature that I wish we had right out from the bat, is … when we run out of capacity … we want to give customers an equitable and fair place to reserve a place in line,” Landry said. 

Landry said Amazon expects to see demand surges regionally rather than nationally this winter, and for a variety of reasons: a spike in COVID-19 cases, the flu season, or bad weather. 

Amazon and other grocery delivery services saw this type of demand when the coronavirus outbreak reached the US in March. Customers opted for grocery pickup or delivery rather than visit stores in person, which meant finding a time slot online became next to impossible — customers complained on social media that they were refreshing grocery stores’ websites late at night to try to snag a slot. As a result, both Walmart and Amazon scrambled to add more delivery windows and hire more workers to fulfill online orders or stock shelves.

While the demand for grocery delivery made life challenging for customers in the early weeks of the pandemic, it has also boosted business for companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart. Walmart crushed Wall Street estimates in the second quarter, while Amazon reported record second-quarter profits and saw online grocery sales triple. This month, Instacart became the most valuable VC-backed food delivery company in the US with a valuation of $17.7 billion.

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