As the UK battles an inflation-driven crisis for the first time in four decades, the cost of living has become the first item on the agenda for grocery retailers. But further parallels with the 1970s stop there. Consumers may be hugely price-sensitive, but their expectations around grocery shopping remain firmly in the post-Covid era, especially when it comes to delivery.

High expectations don’t have to translate into unrealistic ones. Convenience, flexibility and ease of use are table stakes to add value. The 15-minute rapid grocery delivery players may have set the bar high, but their very public performance struggles makes it clear the model is probably not sustainable.

In contrast, a flexible same-day service offering delivery within two to three hours can be highly cost-effective while still fitting into people’s busy lives.

Speed alone isn’t enough, of course. A best-in-class delivery service will provide customers with up-to-date tracking information and consider how the brand presents itself at the moment of delivery.

Consumers are seeking sustainable options too, and the surge in fossil fuel prices has only made this issue more salient. Retailers should consider where and when they can make use of electric vehicles and bikes, and offer this as a convenient choice if possible – not just to save the planet but as an option for consumers reluctant to drive to a store.

Flexible delivery has an obvious use case for shoppers in need of urgent essentials, but our experience has shown increasing the range of products available often leads to larger basket sizes. It may sound counterintuitive when times are tight, but retailers can give themselves an advantage by offering greater product choice (and value) at the point of delivery– a difference that will be all the more pronounced in the festive season.

One last word of advice: it’s a mistake to only think about London and other major cities. Consumers expect the same degree of service, regardless of where they live – yes, levelling up is key here too. Our work with Co-op to roll out a same-day delivery service from 200 stores shows what is possible when a retailer makes effective use of its existing infrastructure.

Be ambitious, but realistic: people don’t expect you on their doorstep within half an hour, but if you can offer a reliable, flexible delivery service with a great range of well-priced products and streamlined experience, they will keep coming back for more.