Shoppers who buy groceries online are still a small minority of consumers, according to a survey released last week by consulting firm Gallup Inc.
In the Gallup survey, just 11.0% of consumers said they buy groceries online—for pickup or home delivery—at least once per month, up from 9.0% in 2017. In 2019, 4.0% of consumers say they buy groceries online at least once per week, which was unchanged from 2017. Gallup surveyed 1,525 adults across all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, July 1-12.
“Consumer behavior changes gradually,” says David Bishop, partner at grocery ecommerce consulting firm Brick Meets Click. That’s especially true for purchases like groceries, which are central to the life of a household, he says.
Because food is so essential, consumers perceive that it’s risky to have others pick out their groceries, Bishop says. Grocery shopping is a personal process that involves tasks like examining individual cuts of meat and picking out produce items, he says. Some shoppers will not easily delegate those tasks to others. Also, grocery shopping is a complex sensory and social experience that some people enjoy, he adds.
“It’s not the same as buying shoes—or even packaged goods like bags of candy—online,” Bishop says.
Another barrier to online grocery shopping, he says, can be the service or delivery charges involved. Some retailers are dealing with that by waiving fees for the initial three purchases, or providing free delivery or pickup services above certain dollar thresholds.
Online grocery buying habits vary somewhat by income level, age and household composition. For example, 15.0% of adults employed full time make online grocery purchases at least once per month. For households with annual incomes more than $100,000, that percentage was 18%. Also, 19.0% of parents of children under 18 years old said they buy groceries online at least once per month.
Bishop says consumers take to online grocery shopping when they can save time and perceive that the value of online ordering for pickup or delivery is worth any extra cost. He says the average family drives three to four miles to a local grocery store and that trip, plus the shopping itself, can quickly eat up more than an hour or more. Another factor, he says, is the growing availability of online grocery shopping as more retailers add pickup or delivery services for orders purchased on the web.
Brick Meets Click expects online grocery shopping to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15% over the next five years, Bishop says.
Meanwhile, grocery shopping in stores remains popular. Gallup found 83.0% of consumers shop at grocery stores at least once per week. That includes 37.0% who shop at grocery stores more than once a week. Those numbers are virtually unchanged compared with 2017.
According to separate research, shoppers who buy groceries online are most likely to buy them from Walmart Inc. (No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000). An August report from research firm Second Measure found Walmart’s online grocery operation had 62% more customers in June than its nearest competitor. That competitor was Instacart, a service that delivers groceries to consumers from about 20,000 local retailers. The report did not provide actual customer counts.
A July report from The Nielsen Co. says Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) has the largest online market share in packaged consumables measured in dollars. However, Amazon’s market share has slipped to 39.0% as of Jan. 31, 2019, down from 43.0% at the same point in 2017. Of the online CPG merchants Nielsen evaluated, only Amazon lost market share since 2017. Packaged consumables are the kinds of items typically sold in grocery stores.