Sep 16, 2021
Online grocery shopping emerged as a way for customers to get what they needed while limiting potential exposure to the virus at the beginning of the pandemic. A new survey shows, however, that convenience and not safety is now the main reason that consumers are buying groceries online.
Seventy-six percent said they shop for groceries online for the sake of convenience and ease while only 56 percent said they do so to avoid potential COVID-19 infection, according to an ACI Worldwide and PYMNTS survey of more than 2,300 consumers. In-store shopping, however, remains far and above the favored way of getting groceries with 81.8 percent preferring to shop and pay in-store. Only 18.1 percent said they prefer buying online. Twenty-one percent said that they shop less in-store now than they did before the pandemic. Fifteen percent have increased shopping for groceries in-store since the pandemic.
Early in the pandemic, online grocery delivery and adjacent services like curbside pickup experienced an unprecedented increase in adoption due to concerns over the potential in-store spread of COVID-19.
Though fear of contracting COVID-19 in a grocery store was still high in February of this year, anxieties have settled significantly, according to FMI’s “U. S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker: Back to School/Back to Office” research, Supermarket News reports. Sixty percent now see shopping in-store as an acceptable risk, and those who are most concerned about COVID-19 infection and the Delta strain are comfortable with mask requirements as a preventative measure.
While it might seem odd that consumers would grocery shop in-store more since the beginning of the pandemic than before it, such a behavioral shift could be the result of more perceived safety compared to eating in restaurants or growing more accustomed to in-store shopping during the first wave of restaurant shutdowns starting in early 2020.
The importance of convenience doesn’t mean that concerns around safety no longer exist, particularly as COVID-19 cases have been overwhelming medical facilities in some states around the U.S. Studies conducted last year showed in-store safety was among the most important factors for shoppers when deciding to shop in-person vs. from their phones or laptops.
In apparel, chains including Nordstrom even began using online influencers in campaigns on social sites like Instagram to assure customers that it was safe to return to stores.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What does the consumer desire for convenience mean for grocers looking to compete for online shoppers against rivals who also offer delivery and curbside pickup? Can you point to grocers that currently excel in digital grocery operations and what do you see as the next generation of improvements coming down the line?
“Worry about making it easy for those who want to see inventory and/or shop online to do so. Then worry more about keeping your stores clean and stocked.”