US online grocery sales hit $7.2 billion in June, with increased demand for convenience

Nov 9, 2020

Erik Wallin

Woman Smiling
Woman Smiling

The global health crisis has driven a number of changes when it comes to the way we buy food, from increases in online grocery shopping to the value of digital recipe and meal solutions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shoppers turned to online grocery deliveries in their droves. Supermarkets struggled to keep up with demand, launching urgent recruitment drives to boost their numbers of pickers, packers and drivers.

With lockdown restrictions now easing in many locations, some shoppers have returned to the in-store experience, but far from all of them. It seems that the move to online grocery sales is a permanent one for many customers.

Figures from Brick Meets Click show online grocery sales rising from $5.3 billion in April 2020 to $6.6 billion in May — an increase of 24%. In June, online sales rose by a further 9%, to a value of $7.2 billion. Back in August 2019, sales stood at under $1.5 billion.

Nor is it just the volume of customers that has increased. The frequency with which people are shopping for food online has also risen. The average online shop frequency stood at one shop per month back in August 2019. Since then it has climbed steadily, with a notable uptick since March 2020. The average now stands at around 1.9 online grocery shops per month (including both delivery and pickup).

The near doubling of the frequency at which customers are shopping for their food online indicates a major shift in consumer behaviour. It highlights the growing dependence that shoppers have on online grocery ordering, as it becomes an embedded part of their purchasing behaviour.

This significant and sustained change in customer habits has pushed grocery retailers to examine their online offering in new ways. Walmart CEO Doug McMilon observes that, “the future of [online] groceries is content driven.”

This is because shopping online is not the same as shopping in-store. There’s vastly more scope to engage online grocery shoppers with recipe and meal planning, for example. Indeed, data from recipe shopping platform Gastrofy, part of the Northfork group, reveals that 49% of shoppers are thinking about recipes and meals when entering into grocery shopping online.

This means that there is huge value in supporting online grocery shoppers through the provision of solutions such as easily browsable recipes, automated ingredient matching, meal planners and intelligent basket-filling with customisable options (from organic produce to budget brands).

Getting used to the ‘new normal’ presents plenty of opportunities for grocery retailers to turn their new online shoppers into long-term, loyal customers. Doing so is about so much more than product availability and sensible substitutions. It’s about turning the shopping experience into something that’s both more enjoyable and easier to do. Recipe and meal shopping solutions are a mandatory part of this.