Amazon is making it faster for Prime members to place Whole Foods orders online and pick them up at the store, in the latest sign of growing demand for curbside pickup services.
Amazon is launching free, one-hour grocery pickup for Prime members at all Whole Foods stores in the U.S., the company announced Wednesday. To qualify for one-hour pickup, grocery orders must total $35 or more. There are currently 487 Whole Foods stores in the U.S.
The feature presents a new perk for Prime members, who pay $119 per year for free shipping and access to other services like Prime Video and Music, as well as free Amazon Fresh grocery deliveries. Before Wednesday’s announcement, Prime members could pick up Whole Foods orders only at select stores.
Curbside pickup on the rise
Options to buy goods online and pick them up in person, like curbside pickup and in-store pickup, have gained traction during the coronavirus crisis, alongside an overall spike in online grocery services. Shoppers are increasingly turning to these services as they look for ways to cut down on their time spent in stores.
These services were on the rise long before the pandemic, however. While Amazon was focusing more on grocery delivery, rivals Walmart and Target have aggressively expanded curbside pickup over the past few years. Now, it’s effectively become table stake for retailers, said Steve Caine, a retail expert and partner at Bain & Co. The service provides customers with more flexible pickup windows, and it’s more cost effective for retailers, since they no longer have to handle the expensive last-mile delivery process.
“Amazon is late to the game,” said Caine. “They’re really trying to catch up here with those who have been at this for a while.”
Whole Foods, which Amazon bought in 2017, has a smaller nationwide footprint and doesn’t provide the same amount of density in a local market as a local grocer or traditional big-box retailer like Walmart, Caine said. While Whole Foods has fewer than 500 stores in the U.S., Walmart has at least 4,700 stores.
By offering curbside pickup as a perk for Prime subscribers, Amazon is betting that interest will carry over long after the pandemic. Early signs are indicating that it could, with about 68% of U.S. shoppers saying they plan to use curbside pickup services at stores more in the future, according to a recent study conducted by GlobalData Retail.
“While Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of online grocery services and prompted new customers to try services like grocery pickup, it’s clear that this offering will become a more permanent solution for many customers,” Amazon said in Wednesday’s blog post.
This story originally appeared on CNBC.