Of all e-commerce markets, grocery has long lagged behind in consumer adoption. But now there are signs that may be changing fast. In the year since early 2018, the proportion of U.S. consumers who had bought groceries online in the prior 12 months jumped from 23.1% to 36.8%, according to survey results released Tuesday by New York City-based Coresight Research. Correspondingly, those who had not bought any groceries online in the prior 12 months declined from 75.4% of respondents in 2018 to 61.4% this year (less than 2% could not recall in both years).
Those percentages work out to an approximate increase in online grocery shoppers of 35 million between last year and this, bringing the total market to some 93 million consumers, according to Coresight. “The number of U.S. shoppers buying groceries online, even if only occasionally, is substantial and growing rapidly,” says the survey commentary.
But the big expansion in the consumer market for online groceries comes with a big cautionary note: More people may be buying online, but they’re not buying much. Just 11.8% this year said they bought “all” or “most all” of their groceries online, a drop from 14.3% in 2018. Some 72.4%, by contrast, said they bought “a little” or “almost none” of their groceries online. “As more new shoppers move into online grocery, they appear to be having a dilutive impact on the proportion of per-shopper grocery spend captured by e-commerce,” says the survey commentary. “Tentative or occasional online shoppers seem to be dipping their toes in the water instead of jumping in.”
As for how these shoppers are getting their groceries, delivery appears to have made a slight gain on picking up the goods at the local store. The delivery option increased from 45.3% “mainly” using delivery in 2018 to 47.5% this year.
The results also indicate major gains for stores not called Amazon. Some 37.4% of respondents had bought groceries online from Walmart in the past year, up from 25.5% who said so in 2018. Target, too, notched a big increase, 15.7% this year compared to 6.9% in 2018. Amazon still leads by a hefty margin, with 62.5% buying from the e-commerce giant, up from 59.5% a year ago. Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market recorded an increase from 3.7% to 8.4%.
For the 2019 survey, Coresight canvassed 1,888 U.S. adults who are Internet users and are considered demographically representative. Coresight says the results have a margin of error of 5%, with a 95% confidence interval. The grocery category included food but also pet food, household-cleaning products, and personal-care products.