How to Start an Online Grocery Delivery Business in 2023

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So you want to hop on the online grocery delivery train and start your own business, huh? Smart move. The online grocery market is booming and is projected to reach over $187 billion in the next couple of years. With more people opting for convenient grocery delivery services, now is the perfect time to dive in.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to launch your own successful grocery delivery business. From choosing a business model to obtaining proper licenses, securing funding, building your website, hiring staff, and acquiring customers, we’ve got you covered. The road ahead isn’t always easy, but with some grit and determination (and our helpful tips, of course), you’ll be delivering groceries in no time and well on your way to establishing the next big thing in grocery. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

launch grocery store app

Choosing a Business Model for Your Online Grocery Delivery

When starting an online business, you’ll need to choose between two popular models:

  • Inventory-based: You purchase wholesale groceries and stock your own warehouse. When customers place orders, you pick and pack the items yourself before delivering them. This requires significant upfront investment but allows you to maximize profits.


  • Dropshipping: You partner with grocery stores and list their available products on your website. When customers order, the stores pick and pack the groceries while you handle the delivery. This minimizes costs since you don’t need a warehouse, but profits are lower as you’ll pay the stores a percentage.


To decide, consider your budget, risk tolerance, and how much control you want over order fulfillment. An inventory-based model, while more complex, may be better if you want to curate high-quality, niche products. Dropshipping is simpler but limits selection.

Many small businesses start with dropshipping, then transition to an inventory-based model as they scale and gain experience. You could also offer a hybrid, stocking some staples yourself while dropshipping more specialized items.

Whatever you choose, build your technology platform to easily integrate with partners for a seamless customer experience. And remember, as the industry evolves, staying flexible and open to new opportunities will be key to success.

The future is bright for online grocery delivery. With the right business model and dedication, you can establish a thriving company that provides real value to customers. Now, roll up your sleeves and get ready to fulfill some grocery orders!

Developing a Business Plan for Your Grocery Delivery Startup

To get your grocery store off the ground, you need a solid plan in place. A good business plan will help you outline your idea, identify your target market, and determine if it’s viable. It’s also crucial for obtaining funding and investment.

Your plan should include:

  • Your business vision and mission. What problem are you solving? Who are your potential customers?


  • Your target market. Identify your key customer groups and their needs. Consider factors like location, age, income level, and buying habits. Conduct surveys and focus groups to gain insights.


-Your business model. How will you make money? Will you charge delivery fees, membership fees, or a percentage of sales? Determine your revenue streams and pricing structure.

-Operational details. Map out your business operations, including your warehouse and delivery processes. Figure out what equipment, inventory, and staff you need. Build partnerships with grocery suppliers and distributors.

  • Financial projections. Create 3-5 year financial forecasts including income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and key metrics and ratios. Factor in costs like product procurement, storage, delivery, and marketing.


  • Risks and mitigations. Identify potential threats and challenges to your business. Develop plans to minimize risks like competition, economic downturns, and operational issues. Build contingencies and exit strategies.


-A marketing plan. Determine how you will attract new customers and gain market share. Use strategies like social media marketing, content creation, email campaigns, partnerships, and word-of-mouth.

With a thorough plan in place, you’ll have a roadmap to establish your online grocery delivery startup. Regularly revisit and revise your plan to account for changes, ensuring your business remains on the path to success. The plan can help keep your team aligned and focused on key goals and growth opportunities.

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Registering Your Business and Obtaining Licenses

To officially launch your grocery delivery business, you’ll need to register your business and obtain the proper licenses and permits. This step ensures your business is set up properly according to your state’s requirements.

Business Registration

Register your business with your state, typically as an LLC (limited liability company) or corporation. This establishes your business as a legal entity and protects your personal assets. You’ll have to pay a registration fee, usually a few hundred dollars.

Business Licenses and Permits

Check with your city clerk’s office regarding business licenses or permits required for a grocery delivery service. Common ones include:

  • Reseller’s permit: Allows you to buy goods wholesale without paying sales tax so you can resell them to customers.

  • Occupational licenses: Required to operate a business in some cities and counties. Fees range from $50 to $500 per year.

  • Health department permit: Ensures you follow food safety regulations. Required if you handle or deliver perishable goods. Fees vary significantly.

Some states may require additional licenses for delivery vehicles or to operate refrigerated trucks. Do thorough research on your state and local requirements to ensure you obtain all necessary permits before launching.


Liability insurance, vehicle insurance, and business property insurance are strongly recommended to properly protect your new business. While not always legally required, insurance provides coverage if anything were to happen to your delivery vehicles or goods, or if a customer injury occurred. Obtain several quotes from reputable insurance providers to find a plan that suits your needs and budget.

While registering and licensing your business may seem tedious, it’s a critical step to legitimize your company and avoid potential legal issues down the road. Once the paperwork is complete, you’ll be ready to start accepting orders and watch your online grocery delivery business take off!

Sourcing Products and Building Your Inventory

Once you have your business set up, it’s time to start building your product inventory. This is a crucial step to get right because it will determine your ability to fulfill customer orders accurately and on time.

Determine Your Product Mix

Focus on staples that most people buy weekly like fresh produce, dairy, packaged goods, and some prepared meals. You’ll want to offer a variety of high-quality items at different price points to suit all budgets. Consider partnering with local suppliers, farms, and food makers in your area to provide organic, artisanal, and specialty products. Offering a unique selection of locally-sourced goods can help set you apart.

Find Reliable Suppliers and Distributors

Do some research to find reputable food suppliers, farmers, and distributors in your area that can provide the types of products you want to sell. Once you’ve found some good options, reach out to discuss pricing and the potential for an ongoing partnership. Be prepared to provide details about your business and product needs to ensure you find suppliers willing and able to meet your demand. Establishing solid relationships with key suppliers is essential for sustaining your inventory.

Determine Initial Inventory Size

You don’t want to overbuy inventory when you’re first getting started, but you need to have enough products on hand to fulfill a good number of orders. A good rule of thumb is to have a 2- to 4-week supply of shelf-stable items, a 1- to 2-week supply of refrigerated goods, and a 2- to 3-day supply of fresh produce and baked items. Start by determining how many orders you expect to fulfill in your first month of business and work backward from there to calculate how much of each product you should stock.

Manage Inventory Carefully

Closely track your product inventory and sales to avoid running out of key items or ending up with excess, spoiled goods. Review your inventory at least once a week and place orders with your suppliers to replenish stock as needed. Be sure to check ‘best by’ and expiration dates regularly and rotate items to ensure maximum freshness. With a well-managed inventory system in place, you’ll be equipped to provide your customers with the best selection and freshest products.

Building Your Website and Mobile App

To sell your vegetables online, you’ll need a professional website and mobile app for your grocery delivery business.

Building Your Website

Your website will be the digital face of your business. It should be designed to attract customers, build trust in your brand, and make it easy for people to place orders.

  • Choose a domain name related to your business and easy to remember. For example, or

  • Use a website builder like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress to create a polished yet simple site. Focus on a clean, mobile-friendly design.

  • Include details about your business, products, delivery options, and pricing. Share high-quality photos of fresh produce and goods.

  • Have a well-designed online ordering system. Make it simple for customers to select items, choose delivery times, and pay for their orders.

  • Don’t forget a blog to share healthy recipes, meal ideas, and behind-the-scenes updates. Engaging content will keep visitors coming back.

Building Your Mobile App

Many of your customers will want to shop and place orders on the go using their smartphones. A mobile app provides convenience and a great user experience.

  • Work with a developer to build iOS and Android apps for your grocery delivery service. Apps should have the same look and features as your website.

  • Push notifications through the app will alert users to sales, deals, and order updates. But don’t overdo the alerts or people may disable them.

  • An app can use location services to show customers the delivery radius and available products in their area. This geo-targeting helps to provide a personalized experience.

  • Make the mobile checkout and payment process simple. Options like Apple Pay or Google Pay allow for fast, secure transactions.

  • Update your app regularly based on user feedback and to fix any bugs. Keep it optimized for the latest iOS and Android releases.

A professional website and mobile app are essential to starting an online grocery delivery business in today’s digital world. With the right tools in place, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful e-commerce company.

Determining a Revenue Model: Subscription, Delivery Fees, or Markup

Subscription, Delivery Fees, or Markup: Which Revenue Model is Right for You?

When starting a startup, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is determining how you’ll actually make money. The three most common options are:

  • Subscription model: Charge customers a recurring monthly or annual fee for unlimited or capped delivery service. This provides predictable revenue but may deter some customers who only order occasionally.

  • Delivery fees: Charge a small fee for each grocery delivery, typically a flat rate or based on factors like order size, delivery distance, or delivery time slot. This allows you to profit from each transaction but revenue can fluctuate from week to week.

  • Markup: Add a percentage markup to the retail price of each grocery item. For example, if you purchase items from grocery stores at retail prices, you could add 25-50% when reselling to your customers. This model provides the opportunity for high-profit margins but may turn off customers if your prices seem too high.

Many successful grocery delivery businesses employ a hybrid model, incorporating two or more of these options. You might charge an annual subscription fee for unlimited standard deliveries along with small delivery fees for expedited or long-distance deliveries. Or you could charge minimal delivery fees and a modest 20-30% markup.

The right choice for your business depends on your target customers, partnerships with grocery stores or wholesalers, and overall business goals. It may take some experimenting to find the perfect balance. But with a smart revenue model in place, your grocery delivery service will be well on its way to success. Keep in mind that as your business grows, you can always tweak or completely revamp your revenue model to match the latest trends and ensure maximum profits. The key is starting with a model that allows you to build a loyal customer base from the beginning.

Marketing Your New Grocery Delivery Service

Once your business is up and running, it’s time to spread the word and attract new customers. Marketing your new venture is key to building a loyal customer base and ensuring long-term success.

Build Your Website

A professional website is your virtual storefront. Include details about your business, service area, product selection, and ordering options. Optimize for search engines by including keywords like “grocery delivery” and your location. Make it easy to navigate and place an order.

Start a Blog

Launch a blog on your website to establish your expertise. Post recipes, meal plans, food tips, and behind-the-scenes business updates. This gives you an opportunity to rank for more keywords and engage readers. Promote your blog on social media to increase traffic.

Run Promotional Offers

Offer special introductory deals for new customers like 10% off or free delivery for the first order. This incentivizes people to try your service and can turn them into repeat customers. Send promotional codes to people on your mailing list and promote the offers on social media.

Build a Social Media Presence

Create profiles for your business on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Post regularly about your products and services, share blog updates, run contests, and engage with your followers. Collaborate with local influencers and cross-promote with related businesses. Social media is a great way to raise brand awareness and connect directly with potential customers.

Don’t Forget SEO

Optimize your website and content for search engines with keywords, internal linking, and fast page load times. Build high-quality backlinks to improve your search rankings. Strong SEO means your business will appear higher in results when people search for grocery delivery in your area.

With the right marketing strategy, your grocery delivery business can thrive. Focus on building your web presence, creating engaging content, running promotions, leveraging social media, and optimizing for search to spread the word about your new venture. Before you know it, you’ll have a steady stream of loyal customers and a booming business!

Overcoming Challenges

Starting a shopping app comes with many challenges. Here are some of the major obstacles you’ll likely face and tips to overcome them:

Lack of Customer Trust

Gaining customers’ trust in a grocery delivery service can be difficult. To build trust:

  • Focus on providing high-quality, fresh products. Inspect all goods before delivery.

  • Offer a satisfaction guarantee and easy returns/refunds.

  • Highlight food safety certifications and procedures.

  • Get customer reviews and testimonials on your website.

  • Be transparent about your sourcing and partners.

Competition from Major Retailers

Large grocery chains and retailers like Walmart and Kroger now offer delivery and curbside pickup. To complete:

  • Find a niche, like locally-sourced organic produce or artisanal goods.

  • Provide superior customer service. Respond quickly to questions and requests.

  • Build partnerships with food brands and producers. Offer exclusive or hard-to-find products.

  • Keep delivery fees low or offer free delivery for larger orders.

Perishable Goods Management

Handling fresh produce, meats, and dairy requires extra care and precautions. Some tips:

  • Work with suppliers that use proper refrigeration and quick shipping methods.

  • Have refrigerated trucks or vans for delivery.

  • Educate customers on properly storing perishable items upon delivery.

  • Build buffers into delivery times and avoid leaving perishables in vehicles for long.

  • Monitor product quality and temperature throughout the supply and delivery chain.

Tight Profit Margins

Low prices, promotional offers, and free delivery can reduce profits. To improve margins:

  • Negotiate the best rates possible with wholesalers and suppliers.

  • Minimize waste by accurately forecasting demand and optimizing delivery routes.

  • Consider charging delivery fees for small or non-perishable orders.

  • Upsell by recommending meal kits, snacks, and other complementary products.

  • Build a loyalty program to increase the lifetime value of customers.

With hard work and persistence, you can overcome these challenges and build a successful startup. Focus on earning customer trust, differentiating from competitors, properly handling perishable goods, and improving profit margins over time.


So there you have it, a guide to getting your own grocery delivery business up and running. The key is to start planning early, do your research, build a solid business plan, and make sure you have enough capital to get through the initial growth stages. While it may seem daunting, if you take it step by step and stay focused on delivering an amazing customer experience, you’ll be well on your way to success.

Online grocery delivery is here to stay, so now is the perfect time to get into this exciting industry. If you go in with realistic expectations, work hard, and don’t get discouraged easily, you could have a thriving business on your hands in no time. What are you waiting for? Start putting your plans into action and you’ll be delivering groceries before you know it!

Key Questions Answered

The costs to start and operate a grocery delivery business can vary quite a bit depending on the business model you choose and how much funding you have access to. On the lower end, you could start a small local delivery service for under $50,000.

The two primary ways grocery delivery businesses generate revenue include:

  • Order commissions: Take a percentage commission (typically 10-20%) of the total order amount from the grocery stores you deliver for. This works best if you’re acting as a third-party delivery service for multiple stores.

  • Subscription fees: Charging customers a monthly or annual subscription fee for unlimited or discounted delivery. This model provides more stable revenue but can be harder to get customers to sign up for initially.

  • Delivery and service fees: Charging small per-delivery and additional service fees like a fuel surcharge. This provides revenue with each order but may turn some customers off if the fees seem too high.

Many delivery businesses utilize a hybrid model with a mix of commissions, subscriptions, and delivery fees to optimize revenue. You can also consider value-added services like meal kits, produce boxes, or prepared foods to boost profits.

Some of the biggest challenges grocery delivery businesses face include:

  • Intense competition: The grocery delivery industry is competitive and fast-growing, so you need to find ways to stand out.

  • High customer acquisition costs: It can be expensive to attract new customers through marketing and promotions.

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    Rohan Murthy

    Rohan Murthy is a freelance writer and in-house content lead at Zipprr, a custom software development company. With over 7 years of experience, he specializes in writing about business, technology and startups. As the in-house content lead, he creates blogs, whitepapers and webpage content for Zipprr. He has also worked with many other clients as a freelance writer, providing long-form and short-form content.