January is a usually a month when people hunker down, but recent data shows that more shoppers were out and about last month. The Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey for the month of January showed that total online grocery sales dipped 8% from January 2021, with year-over-year declines in delivery and ship-to-home methods. Underscoring the greater mobility of consumers, pickup sales grew almost 2%.
According to the survey, grocery delivery decreased 7% and ship-to-home sales plunged 30% compared to a year ago. In contrast, pickup notched a 5% gain, now comprising nearly half (47%) of online grocery sales.
The fallout from the ongoing pandemic – extended in January with Omicron surges in many parts of the United States – continues, researchers said. “These sales results show that circumstances connected to COVID continue to disrupt the way people shop, but in different ways than earlier in the pandemic,” explained David Bishop, partner at the analytics and insights firm Brick Meets Click. “Increases in COVID case rates no longer have the same effect on buying patterns due in part to progress with vaccinations. The loss of financial assistance is another factor since the economic impact payments and child tax credits that many households received in 2021 have ceased. And, if that’s not enough, many retailers altered store operations in January to address the labor shortages associated with COVID-related absences and a tighter labor market.”
Overall, the user base for online grocery held steady, with the number of U.S. households purchasing groceries in the digital channel pegged at 69 million, just 1% lower than last year. In January, account users placed an average of 2.7 orders, 5% fewer than in 2021 but still a third higher than in pre-pandemic 2019.
Breaking down the online grocery market, the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus survey found that consumers continue to buy across the channel, with grocery tailing mass. In some positive news for grocers, the share of grocery's user base that also shopped online with in the mass channel during the month declined two percentage points from a year ago and finished at more than 26% for January, while the likelihood for an online grocery shopper to use the same service again within the next month jumped almost 4% on a year-over-year basis.
“Grocers have a clear opportunity to drive stronger repeat purchase behavior,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of e-commerce platform provider Mercatus. “In addition to providing a great customer experience, they also need to understand which loyalty drivers are unique to their customers and brand. When it comes to online grocery shopping, consider adding perks that cater to behavioral and emotional triggers, like offering a wider range of preferred pickup times or more frequent pickup time slots.”