More shoppers turning to apps for groceries amid coronavirus pandemic

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The new normal is sending people to their phones to get groceries as a way of practicing social distancing.

Digital delivery services were already growing in popularity before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, for some, they're a lifeline.

“The increase of downloads have gone up significantly,” said Dr. Subodha Kumar, a professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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Retail analysts say even after the virus goes away, consumer habits might be forever changed.

More people are turning to apps to get their groceries delivered to practice social distancing.

More people are turning to apps to get their groceries delivered to practice social distancing.

“Some of these people who are temporarily using online channels, they will continue using [them]. They see that it is not really that bad, and in fact, it is a lot more convenient,” Kumar said.

recent study released by ShopperKit showed 31 percent of U.S. households bought groceries online in March. Compared with a 2019 survey by Brick Meets Click, that’s up more than 145 percent.

A recent study by ShopperKit shows 31 percent of U.S. households bought groceries online in March.

A recent study by ShopperKit shows 31 percent of U.S. households bought groceries online in March.

As demand grows for online shopping, so does the demand for employees. Delivery apps such as goPuff and Instacart are looking to hire thousands.

“GoPuff delivers everyday essentials. So everything from cleaning supplies and home needs, to over-the-counter medication, food, drinks and more,” Brigid Gorham, goPuff’s spokesperson, said.

Some gig economy workers, however, think more needs to be done to keep them safe.

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An advocacy group called Gig Workers Collective organized a strike made up mostly of Instacart workers protesting for protective gear and higher pay during the pandemic.

Instacart responded by saying the company is providing its employees with reusable face masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers.     

"We've been evaluating the COVID-19 crisis minute by minute to provide real-time support for Instacart shoppers and customers throughout North America," Nilam Ganenthiran, Instacart's president, said in a statement.

Gig Workers Collective responded in a blog post on Medium, calling the new equipment “a step in the right direction, but still a far cry from adequate.”

Meanwhile, goPuff’s spokesperson says they're monitoring the pandemic.

GoPuff is now arming its drivers with disinfectant and practicing contactless delivery.

GoPuff is now arming its drivers with disinfectant and practicing contactless delivery.

The company, which delivers groceries in more than 170 U.S. cities, is now arming its drivers with disinfectant and practicing contactless delivery.

“The driver will leave the delivery at your door. There’s no need to take it from their hands,” Gorham said.

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It also launched a new initiative offering healthcare workers free orders at hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Advocates for gig workers are continuing to push lawmakers at the state level to pass legislation with stronger protections for these workers.