Will Virtual Grocery Aisles Blow Up?

You may have known that countries like Japan and Korea embraced subway grocery shopping years ago, but now—thanks to Peapodvirtual supermarket aisles have arrived on American subway platforms. The company’s backers hope that its imported strategy will “go Gangnam Style”, and they have plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

Much like the people who live in big cities such as Seoul and Tokyo, urban dwellers in America are extremely pressed for time; they have limited patience and even less living space. Any invention, idea or strategy that saves city dwellers time, frustration or room will succeed.

Peapod’s new virtual shopping experience–in which consumers waiting for a subway can add items to their grocery delivery lists by scanning ads with their smartphones–makes sense. Waiting for a train is boring, and though we temper such idle time with Angry Birds, music and books, the allotted window doesn’t allow for much in the way of deep thinking or contemplation. Those few lost minutes, however, are perfect for internally reviewing the contents of our refrigerators and using our smarthphones to stock up on eggs or milk.

Why has it taken so long for this concept to be implemented in the United States? We don’t know, but as with most things in life, there must be a reason—and when dealing with the public, that reason has a public relations angle to it. Perhaps Americans have a harder time handing control to strangers; we do, after all, love to choose our own tomatoes, melons and bananas using personal, carefully-formed methods of scrutiny. We mull over peaches as if they were murder weapons. Or perhaps Americans shop according to associations and don’t like the idea of picking out spaghetti sauce while rats scurry beneath our feet.

Regardless of the reason for the delay, virtual grocery aisles in subway stops are here, so the grand experiment has commenced. Will this strategy resonate with the American public the way it did in Asia, or is there something about American culture that doesn’t connect with virtual grocery aisles?

Let us know what you think.