When we think of online grocery ordering and delivery, most of us think about the benefits in terms of convenience.  But are there be social implications as well?

Politicians have been on the pulpits talking about the potential job loss by the automation of so many facets of our economy. Could an impact of online ordering be the end of in-store clerks in our grocery stores?

It doesn’t look like it.  While one aspect of grocery store automation is a reduced need for in-store employees, online ordering seems to be having the exact opposite effect on employment—stores are adding head count where online ordering has been implemented.

Take Krogers.  Kroger launched ClickList, an online grocery service with in-store pick-up.  The service is now in 441 stores, with plans for further expansion in 2017.  In the stores where ClickList is available, Kroger has added 25 to 35 “personal shopper” jobs per store to receive and fulfill orders.  Kroger also has plans to implement home delivery which would mean even more jobs for delivery drivers.

So while the net impact of online grocery ordering could be more jobs, not less (good), home delivery could have benefits beyond just job creation.

One is as a way to help those aging in place. While grocery delivery is often viewed as a luxury service Gen-Xers, the reality is these services could also be huge benefits for elderly populations who have trouble getting to the grocery store either because of lack of transportation or physical ability.

Not everyone’s grandpa is going to have the internet savvy of ordering groceries online.  But that is the beauty of online grocery delivery—it doesn’t have to be him.  People with elderly parents who live three states away are able to get online and order the foods they need and have them delivered to their house, keeping our elderly well fed.

Online ordering and home delivery is also making fresh food much more accessible for a broader population who can’t get to the grocery store easily either because they lack transportation or their schedules make doing so difficult.  And the cost isn’t that high.  Instacart offers an annual unlimited delivery service for $149.  That’s less than $3 per week.  Bus fare to the grocery store would cost as much as that in most cities.

There’s still the question of access to the internet to order the groceries, but this barrier keeps diminishing.  Pew Research indicates that 79% of households with an income of under $30,000 had Internet access in 2016 making online grocery ordering a service available to many households in all income levels.

Even better, the USDA announced in January a pilot program to use food stamps for online grocery ordering.  Seven retailers, including Amazon and Safeway, have partnered with the USDA to enable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to use food stamps online.  That’s a game changer.

Undeniably, online ordering and grocery delivery is a big convenience, but it’s also doing a lot of good in driving job growth in a sector with slowing job growth and in bringing food to potentially undernourished populations.

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