Online grocery shoppers project increased growth with curbside pickup a mainstay of the grocery experience

The pandemic pushed many of us to test online grocery shopping. While much has changed, I can’t remember seeing many of the curbside pickup spots full at the Jewel a few blocks from my house over the past months. One crucial question is: Will online shoppers continue to embrace grocery-buying online, or will it wane as in-person choices are readily available?

To reach those responsible for grocery buying in their households, Digital Commerce 360, in conjunction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1,000 online shoppers and began with a qualifying question that addressed one’s responsibility for grocery buying.

More than 78% of survey respondents indicated they are fully/mostly responsible for household grocery shopping, while the remainder (22%) was partially responsible, so all were eligible for the second question. Almost half of those responsible for household grocery shopping (45%) have ordered online. While 29% ordered either routinely (13%) or occasionally (16%), perhaps the 16% who ordered online for the first time during the pandemic are seen as online grocery’s most significant opportunity.


Understanding frequency impacts mindset and marketing. Successful online shopping among grocery buyers leads to increased adoption, where sellers hope to increase the frequency of those who shop monthly or less. The weekly shopper is the heart of online grocery shopping. We can sum up purchasing frequency this way:

  • Weekly: 26%
  • Monthly: 46%
  • Less than once a month: 28%

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Next, we wanted to explore what percentage of their grocery buying is done online. We believe a greater interest in online grocery shopping leads to a higher penetration of being bought online long-term. This research indicates that 38% of grocery buyers purchase at least half of their overall groceries online. Patterns are as follows:

  • 0%-10%: 25%
  • 11%-50%: 37%
  • 51%+: 38%


Curbside leads customers to grocery pickup post-pandemic

Curbside provides the convenience shoppers desire and has staying power post-pandemic. It takes the lead in how online shoppers have received their groceries over the past six months. In-store pickup is far behind, with just 31% indicating they went inside the store. To me, this is a testament to the execution of curbside over the past few years.

Shoppers pursue a wide range of store options to cover their grocery needs, with mass merchants in the lead at 38%. Right behind are the large grocery chains at 36%. This is one of the few categories where Amazon trails at 26%. Smaller independent grocers and others still have a role to play, as seen in their respective 14% and 10% penetrations.

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App-based services like Instacart and DoorDash are now part of the fabric of the grocery experience. 27% of survey respondents had used one of these, believing these will grow over time.

Online grocery shoppers are pleased with their experiences

The numbers speak for themselves, with a powerful 90% reporting their service was excellent or very good. The goal now is to maintain those elevated levels of satisfaction. This should ensure that even greater online grocery adoption could be on the horizon.


Time savings and convenience drive online grocery purchasing

When asked to share their experiences with online grocery shopping, saving time was the No. 1 answer at 63%. Online searching also contributed to that time savings for 29% of shoppers surveyed.

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Of course, online shopping has always been about being able to shop at one’s convenience, as identified by 50% of respondents. Other contributors to convenience include not having to shop in harsh weather (27%) and feeling safer (22%). Some find it difficult to get to the store (17%). I wanted to touch on frequent replenishment, which is undoubtedly simpler in the online world. 22% of those surveyed and a small group (8%) who try new foods noted that.

Online grocery shoppers also cite their sentiments about the store. Almost half (47%) said they didn’t have to deal with in-store lines and can avoid parking-lot hassles (32%). There are also 29% who don’t enjoy grocery shopping, so online is ideal for this segment. From an inventory/information perspective, only 13% reported they encountered out-of-stocks.

Online shopping keeps shoppers in check as they save money and take advantage of couponing. 26% find they don’t buy things they don’t need. 20% cited the option to take advantage of online specials and coupons. This likely went hand in hand with the 19% who said they saved money grocery shopping online. Surprisingly, only 5% suggested they read reviews, which contrasts with what we see in general online shopping.

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Substitutions and out-of-stocks are at the top of the list of concerns

There is much that can go wrong regarding online grocery shopping. Substitutions and out-of-stocks remained the most prominent issues and were a factor for 43% of online grocery buyers who have challenges in this regard. 21% of respondents found the food freshness lacking.

Delivery concerns were less of an issue, though the following shopping delivery/pickup issue were of note:

  • No same-day options (18%)
  • Lack of choice in delivery times/windows (18%) and
  • Delayed orders (14%)
  • Only 4% experienced orders sent at the wrong time

Customer service has room for improvement, including communication, accessibility and accommodation. One in five had parts of their order wrong. Beyond that, 8% had difficulty contacting customer service or inadequate communication. Just a handful had long pickup lines at the stores (6%), customer service that couldn’t accommodate their needs (5%) or store pickup lines that were confusing (4%).

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The tactile nature of grocery shopping keeps some buyers from trying online options

For as long as I can remember, the No. 1 reason shoppers chose not to buy groceries online is they prefer seeing and selecting products. This was confirmed by 71% of the non-buyers in our survey. Secondly, some like me still enjoy those store visits (42%), and 14% even like interacting with store associates. One of the other inconveniences that 17% noted was the inability to make alternative choices when items are out of stock. And for some of us, we simply have limited grocery needs (8%).

Delivery was a factor for 9% when their preferred store didn’t offer home delivery. This certainly contributed to its lower penetration among buyers. Logistics issues were minimal, with only 6% citing it was difficult to receive groceries due to their schedule and availability. Only 1% said they had poor past experiences with grocery delivery services.

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Money is always on online shoppers’ minds, and here, the issue that rose to the top for 22% was delivery charges that were too high. Next: online prices were higher (15%) and not wanting to tip (8%).

From a product point of view, the following saw minimal responses when it came to selection being limited online (6%), products not always fresh (5%), popular items selling out (4%), and the range of specialty products online limited (1%).


2022 online grocery ordering will be the same for most shoppers. Just 15% express a likely increase, contrasting with 13% who expect their buying to decrease.

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High shopper satisfaction means shoppers will maintain online buying habits. Shoppers may ultimately choose a combination of online and in-store purchasing pending circumstances. Being cognizant of out-of-stocks, flexible in delivery options and offering store-based options from curbside to in-store will help ensure its success. As more retailers jump on the bandwagon and services are extended, additional growth should prevail. Time savings and conveniences should be core to every online retailer’s evolution as both will drive participation and satisfaction. And as for every form of shopping, exemplary customer service may be the ultimate participation driver.

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