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Deep Dive Into Online Grocery Shopper Behaviors

Acosta's study reflects prevalence of omnichannel shopping and the fulfillment trends Millennials are driving
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
online grocery
Three in four Gen Z and Millennials are placing small orders for a single meal or recipe, reflecting a familiarity and comfort with the use and cost of delivery services.

Before it heads to Groceryshop next week, Acosta Group has released the results of its annual online grocery shopping study with its proprietary shopper community. The shopper research was conducted July 7-13 with 1,308 U.S. primary online grocery shoppers.

The Acosta study shows a slight uptick in online grocery shopping over last year, with 55% of grocery shoppers buying groceries online at least some of the time. This upward trend is driven by more consumers who are shopping online regularly but still shopping mostly in-store.

[Read more: "How Grocery Stores Can Thrive in the Age of E-Commerce"]

“We learned in this year’s study that frequent online grocery shoppers are up to 50% more likely to purchase perishables such as breads and pastries, dairy, produce, and frozen for pickup or delivery, which we attribute to a higher level of trust and familiarity with the fulfillment processes,” said Kathy Risch, SVP consumer insights and trends at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta.

When it comes to placing an order, 49% of online shoppers are starting at a retailer’s website or app with their lists, and 85% (90% of higher-income shoppers) are using digital coupons.

For grocery pickup shoppers, 80% are also going into the store when picking up their order, either because they forgot to purchase an item online or they prefer to personally select specific items. This is a 10% increase over last year, reflecting consumers’ growing desire to have the in-store experience as well as the convenience of online shopping and pickup.

The retail grocery pickup channels most frequently shopped:

  • 68% Mass merchandisers
  • 55% Online-only retailers such as Amazon
  • 55% Grocery
  • 33% Club

“We’ve seen that post-pandemic, consumers have returned to in-store shopping, and they want a seamless omnichannel experience where all items online are available at the same price as in store, and all items in store are available for pickup and delivery,” said Risch.

As expected, convenience is highly valued when it comes to pickup and delivery fulfillment of online orders. Most online grocery shoppers (63%) will consistently use one type of fulfillment method. Younger online grocery shoppers are heavy users of each, using delivery services at twice the rate of Boomers.

  • Store pickup: 60% of Millennials and 50% of Gen Z
  • Delivery to home: 62% of Millennials and 65% of Gen Z

The favored delivery providers are Instacart and Walmart+, followed by Prime, DoorDash and Uber Eats, with high satisfaction levels for these services.

“Delivery shoppers often want the items fast,” said Risch, “Thirty-eight percent are using delivery options of three hours or less, and men are far more willing to pay a higher fee for speed.” For shoppers with limited flexibility who live in urban areas, have children or work outside the home, the delivery timeframe window is critical.

Additionally, three in four Gen Z and Millennials are placing small orders for a single meal or recipe, reflecting a familiarity and comfort with the use and cost of delivery services. Millennials are also highly likely to purchase and try new items and are very likely to buy on impulse.

“Today’s online grocery shoppers are younger and digitally savvy, and are using online grocery shopping in new ways,” said John Carroll, president, Acosta Group Digital Commerce and Advanced Analytics. “Their expectations are set for convenience and accuracy, as well as an integrated experience across the digital and physical shelf.”

Future online grocery sales growth will come primarily from existing buyers versus new buyers, so building trust through exceptional service, inspirational digital shelf content and personalized offers will be key.

At Groceryshop

Groceryshop will take place Sept. 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas. Acosta’s Carroll will help moderate the “Strategies for Omnichannel Fulfillment and Delivery” session on Sept. 20.

This session will discuss the technology investments, strategies and necessary infrastructure needed by retailers and brands to execute omnichannel fulfillment and delivery. Companies will discuss how they are navigating partnering versus building capabilities in-house and how to operate these channels as efficiently as possible. Execs from such companies as Walmart U.S., DoorDash and Migros will join the panel.

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