As you can imagine, I have a fascination with anything that takes retail into fresh new territories. One company I’ve always admired is Peapod. The online grocery delivery service reimagined retail with its debut in 1989 – way back in the day, when modems were newfangled devices and AOL was the craze. They weren’t the first to offer the service – but they’re the one that has lasted by understanding that the business isn’t solely about convenience, but also hinges on “quality fulfillment” and “customer service”. Nothing’s “convenient” if you get blotchy produce delivered late. Peapod got it right about what customers really wanted and needed right from the start.
Recently, they’ve again reimagined retail – twice. This spring Peapod set up an interactive grocery store in the tunnel of Chicago’s State & Lake “L” station. Commuters shopped using their smartphones to scan products pictured on shelves in train station posters. Purchases were delivered the next day. Peapod wasn’t the first with the idea, but I suspect that, once again, they’ll be the ones to make it an ongoing and viable offering by truly meeting shoppers’ desires. (Tesco pioneered the concept last year in subway stations in Seoul, South Korea.)
In early October, the program returned, expanded to 17 Chicago train stations and, now, also offers 30 items from area restaurants and hometown brands, such as Lou Malnati’s pizza, Garrett’s Popcorn and Eli’s cheesecake. The program was also introduced in Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington.
Next, in a fresh feat of re-imagination, the company that is synonymous with home delivery, has opened a pick-up store – Peapod Pick-Up – in a Chicago suburb and plans to open another in December. Customers order online, then come during an assigned time window to pick up their groceries. A Peapod associate puts the groceries right in your car. No schlepping required until you unload at home.
This is the kind of change and re-imagination that keeps retail so exciting for me. I’m inspired by their nimble approach and curious to see what future reinventions Peapod has growing on the vine.