The last month of the year was marked by some of the same trends that defined e-commerce throughout 2022. According to the latest Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey, notable behaviors included consumers’ continued preference for pickup as a fulfillment option and the popularity of the mass channel for ordering groceries online.
Overall e-comm sales in the grocery sector rose 2.4% in December compared to the previous December to reach $9.1 billion. That’s shy of the monthly record of $9.3 billion set during the first quarter of 2021, but still strong at a time of consumer concerns about inflation and a possible looming recession. The survey also revealed that more than half of all U.S. households ordered groceries online last month, a 4% hike over 2021.
The emergence of pickup as a preferred fulfillment method was affirmed again last month, when pickup was the only form that showed a sales boost. In that same time span during the peak holiday season, delivery dipped slightly and ship-to-home fell 16.2%.
The other ongoing trend of consumers placing orders at mass merchandisers was also evident in December. The Brick Meets Click/Mercatus data found that the mass sector was a bigger contributor to the growth of total online grocery sales compared to grocery. Moreover, the monthly active user (MAU) base for mass stores grew three times faster than the MAU base for grocery stores. Additionally, the research indicated that consumers are cross-shopping more often between grocery and mass; in December, more than 30% of MAUs purchased groceries online from both kinds of stores, up significantly from 2021.
David Bishop, partner at Brick Meets Click, tied the popularity of pickup methods and the mass channel together. “The investments that mass retailers have put into their pickup services are a significant driver of the format’s gains,” he explained.
As for the fallout from persistent inflation, high prices are only part of the reason shoppers are ordering online with mass retailers, the researchers noted. “While lower prices are a contributing factor in the growth of the mass MAU base, being able to more consistently execute at the store level is also helping to strengthen retention and engagement with existing customers, especially when compared to grocery,” Bishop observed.