How to Start an Online Grocery Shopping Service

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As an online entrepreneur, you have the ability to control inventory, audience and methods of delivery. With an online grocery shopping service you can service a particular area or a specific type of food, such as organic or all-natural food, to a particular customer base. You do the shopping, and your customers receive groceries without leaving the comforts of home, losing time from work or family or battling heavy traffic, especially during the holiday seasons. Set up your service in a way that benefits your customers and helps you make the most of your online presence.

  • Build a website geared toward grocery shopping; include online ordering, product features and description, and information about the service. Establish a merchant account through your bank for credit card processing or utilize a free merchant service such as PayPal. Create a page on your website that gathers customer information. Give the customer the opportunity to receive emails about your service from time to time. Include discounts and promotions on your website to generate business and interest.

  • Ask customers to be specific about their requests. For example, customers should request organic Granny Smith apples, not just apples. This helps eliminate confusion and misunderstandings. Give customers an area on your website where they can communicate specific needs and restrictions.

  • Offer customers a variety of delivery methods---same day delivery (if ordering before noon), next-day delivery (if ordered by 6 p.m.), non-rush delivery (needed within 2 to 3 business days). Give the customer options on how to receive products. Indicate what area you're servicing. Charge an extra delivery fee for customers outside of your service area. Ask customers to get in holiday shopping orders within two days of service. Indicate prices on your website for each delivery option upon checkout.

  • Tell customers online what stores you endorse. Customers may request certain stores for their groceries. Give customers the option of using your endorsements or, for an extra fee, shopping for them at their choice of stores.

  • Purchase extra refrigeration and freezing needs for customers' orders. You need ways to keep food fresh for customers who don't need service until the next day. Buy commercial-level refrigeration and freezing needs in your home or place of business if you need to.

  • Create a return policy. Enforce a fee for returning food if a customer changes his mind about products received. Offer a one-time return for food such as fruit or vegetables that is not up to a customer's standards. Ask customers online whether they want to waive their return option. Offer a small discount (i.e., 1 percent from total bill) to waive the option to return goods.

Tips & Warnings

  • Go to your local government building to obtain a business license. You'll need a DBA (doing-business-as alias) and money for fees. Once the initial forms are processed, place a business ad in your local newspaper for a few weeks as an initial marketing effort.
  • Create flyers to distribute in the neighborhood(s) you are servicing. Look for different events where people will be and distribute flyers there.

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