Why Has Online Grocery Plateaued?

ChaseDesign survey pinpoints several opportunities for retailers to improve their e-commerce strategy
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Walmart, Hy-Vee Part of Online WIC Payment Program
ChaseDesign found that Walmart provides the best BOPIS and curbside pickup.

With the pandemic receding, a "new" shopping environment is emerging that actually resembles pre-pandemic activity: More shoppers are heading back to physical stores. According to analysis of new research from ChaseDesign, a category growth design agency, in-store shopping remains the dominant channel for buying consumer goods and is expected to grow in 2023.

The company's Online Shopper Survey found that the number of retail customers using buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) “all the time” has declined by one-third (45% down to 32%) last year and is expected to shrink further in 2022. Shoppers relying on home delivery of groceries purchased online, which became a major part of many consumers’ overall shopping routine during the pandemic, will also decline in the near-term future by nearly one-quarter.

The ChaseDesign Online Shopper Survey found that home delivery now faces issues with value delivered, possibly accelerated by inflationary times. The number of people who claimed to “always” use delivery to home when buying groceries dropped by half (16% in 2022, down from 31% in 2021).

The reason cited most often by consumers for not wanting to shop online for groceries is simply that they prefer to shop in a physical store. “This is driven by a lack of trust in having retailers pick and deliver exactly what the customer wants. Our survey shows 33% of shoppers have issues with the quality of products selected, and a slightly lower percentage are worried about availability through the digital platform,” said Joe Lampertius, president of ChaseDesign, which is part of McCann, with offices in New York City, Syracuse, N.Y.; and Cincinnati. 

Other key findings from the Online Shopper Survey include the following:

  • There’s a $50 million “commerce gap” between pickup in store versus pickup at curbside when it comes to the incremental purchases shoppers make. For shoppers who buy online and pick up in store, 42% pick up additional items versus 32% for pickup at curbside.
  • Online grocery shoppers avoid categories where careful selection matters most to them, like meat and seafood, produce, dairy products, deli, bakery, and floral.
  • Walmart provides the best BOPIS, curbside pickup, delivery to home, and usage of these services through its app, while also having most the improved services over the past year.

“Our survey pinpoints several opportunities for retailers trying to take advantage of the new shopping environment. For instance, 10% more curbside pickup shoppers complained about the time wasted in their cars waiting for their order in 2022 over last year. If the retailers use that captive time average five to 10 minutes with some shopper engagement and improved impulse merchandising strategies, brands and retailers will be rewarded with a more loyal customer and incremental purchases,” said Lampertius.

“We have been working to improve the curbside pickup experience across several leading clients,” he continued. “A great example is the conceptual work we’ve done for Planters nuts that uses digital integration of last-minute add-on items in the retailer’s app, while also providing impulse merchandising units at point of pickup, to create new opportunities for impulse sales.”

For its Online Shopper Survey, ChaseDesign fielded an online survey in June 2022 through its proprietary research platform, mPulseamong 1,000 consumers between the ages of 25 and 54. Respondents were screened to be the primary or secondary shopper in their households. 

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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