E-Grocery Orders Fall Below Pandemic Levels for 1st Time

Brick Meets Click/Mercatus report shows that e-comm base is growing, but frequency is slowing
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
online grocery
Consumers are cutting down their e-comm orders for groceries, new Brick Meets Click/Mercatus data shows.

More people are getting in on omnichannel shopping, but e-comm is shaking out a bit to become a when-needed kind of solution. That’s one conclusion that can be drawn from the latest Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey.

According to that report, the number of monthly active users increased by 5% on a year-over-year (YoY) basis. That said, order frequency has dipped to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic three years ago.

[Read more: "The Next Evolution of E-Commerce"]

According to the survey’s findings, the number of orders completed by monthly active users averaged 2.49, down 9% from February 2022. Moreover, the new data revealed that the digital share of total grocery spending dropped 30 basis points to 12.9% last month.

There were contractions across e-comm models. Delivery and pickup for online grocery sales declined 1.2% on a YoY basis, with delivery down nearly 9% for the month. Pickup gained some steam in February, up 5% for that peak winter month.  

David Bishop, partner at Barrington, Ill.-based Brick Meets Click explained the dynamic. “The expanding user base for online grocery illustrates its growing reach, but the changing role it plays is evident from contractions in the use of multiple receiving methods and average order frequency, which mostly muted the gains in reach,” he said.

Reflecting the high-price environment, spending was up across all delivery models compared to last year. Total e-grocery sales for the month reached $8.8 billion, up 1.5% versus 12 months ago. The average order value rose 5% for pickup and delivery, while ship-to-home climbed 14% over February 2022, which happened to be one of the lowest points for that model.

Continuing what’s been a trend in recent months, value-seeking shoppers helped fuel more sales at mass merchandisers, as the monthly active user base for that channel grew 20% YoY.  The grocery channel declined for the second straight month. At the same time, cross-format shopping between grocery and mass channels rose 300 basis points from a year ago.

“The changes in the mass and grocery user bases illustrate what could be characterized as a ‘flight to value’ as shoppers deal with persistently higher grocery prices,” observed Bishop. “Another sign of inflation’s impact on e-grocery ordering patterns is the continued growth that pickup has experienced over the last few months while delivery has encountered a pullback in users.”

Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of Mercatus, said that grocers can navigate the still-evolving omnichannel by promoting ways to help shoppers fight inflation. “Grocery retailers can consider highlighting store brands, offering pricing promotions, creating personalized digital coupons and implementing variable fee structures that lower fees for customers and reduce the cost to assemble,” Perrier advised.

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