Saturday, March 7, 2015

Webvan and Buying Groceries Online

Way back when most people were still using dial up modems connecting at blazing speeds of 53k through the phone lines, companies started to pop up that took advantage of the new fangled internet. You could have pretty much anything delivered as long as you had a credit card with just a few clicks. Books, CD's, movies and anything else that could be mailed, was being offered with cut rate prices and low shipping costs. Businesses were finding this new way of selling irresistible considering it cut down on the overhead of a brick and mortar business. This was before digital downloads, smartphones and applications that simplify life to a minimalist proportion. Terry and I were living in an apartment on Lenox Road in Buckhead which was very convenient to Lenox Square Mall, Lenox MARTA Station as well as close distance from grocery stores where we could either walk or take a cab without spending much. Then came Webvan...Terry and I were in love with this service from the beginning. While the prices were slightly above the grocery stores around us, it was convenient and fun to shop for groceries from the comfort of your home at 2am...this was thoughtless shopping at it's finest...and lazy. We ordered from Webvan once a week, got our deliveries and loved every bit of the service. It wasn't until after we moved to Smyrna that we realized we were out of Webvan's delivery range so it was back to Kroger, Winn Dixie and Publix when we needed groceries. Despite the inconvenience of having to get used to shopping for groceries again in actual stores, it was actually better for us not only financially but physically because it got us off our asses. We really didn't hear much about Webvan until after we moved back into the perimeter of Atlanta and tried to begin to order groceries from them again and found they had gone out of business. While it was a brilliant idea, the Webvan system was flawed from the beginning. Rather than creating an alliance with regional grocery stores, such as Kroger, A&P, Publix and Winn Dixie, Webvan built their own facilities and ran their business as competition to the physical stores. I guess their business model made sense to someone out there but it was obviously not sustainable or at least ahead of it's time. Had I been one of the creators, I would have tried to create working relationships with existing grocery companies to use their distribution centers and even their own products. In Atlanta, I've seen many grocery stores pull out of the area or go out of business due to the economy but I bet had this happened, we most likely would still have Winn Dixie, A&P, Cub Foods and Harris Teeter competing against Publix, Wal-Mart and Kroger. Then again, in theory it sounds amazing, I'm sure in reality it would be complicated as hell. Now that we can do anything using our phones with super cool apps, I'm sure Webvan could have made it through the economy tank had they held out until the app stores debuted. Now that we can get someone to pick us up with Uber & Lyft and make deliveries through Roadie, I'm sure it will be a matter of time before someone allows us to once again have our groceries delivered with a few swipes of our fingers.

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