Since the first modern-day supermarket opened nearly a century ago, there had been little change in the grocery retail space, until very recently with the emerging popularity of e-commerce. While other online retail had seen growth early on, the trend took longer to make its mark on grocery. In fact, new research and insights from Acosta, Jacksonville, Fla., show that 97% of all CPG dollars are still being spent in brick-and-mortar retail stores. However, the ability to click and collect and purchase boxed-meal delivery services is evidence that U.S. grocery shoppers are warming to online retail, as 28% now prefer to purchase groceries online regularly.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the perfect example of how the CPG landscape is changing and how technology and online retail have created a shift in the way people shop for groceries,” says Colin Stewart, senior vice president. “While e-commerce is growing in this space, retailers still have a leg up, as our research has shown the majority of grocery shoppers are still making purchases in store and they find value in doing so.”

The report, “Bricks & Clicks – Understanding the Omni Channel Landscape,” shows that e-commerce grocery shoppers are multi-faceted, though they skew toward Millennial age groups and people living in urban areas. For instance:

  • 23% of older Millennials (ages 30-34) and 14% of younger GenXers (ages 35-39) are considered frequent CPG e-commerce shoppers, meaning they purchase groceries online an average of 50% or more of the time.
  • 70% of frequent e-commerce grocery shoppers have children.
  • 68% of frequent e-commerce grocery shoppers in urban areas have taken advantage of pure play/direct-to-home grocery services (such as Amazon Fresh) and 67% have used third-party delivery vs 52% and 17% of those in suburban areas, respectively.
  • 59% of infrequent e-commerce grocery shoppers (those who purchase groceries online less than 50% of the time, on average) are somewhat to extremely likely to try pure play e-commerce websites like Amazon within the next year, and 35% are somewhat to extremely likely to try click and collect programs in that same timeframe.

Growth trends across bricks and clicks

While online sales have grown, brick-and-mortar retail continues to be preferred when grocery shoppers want to personally select their produce and when they seek fresh meats, cheeses and other chilled categories. For example:

  • Grocery purchases remain concentrated in grocery retailers (58%) and mass retailers (29%).
  • 27% of Millennial e-commerce grocery shoppers say that sampling goods is one reason to shop in person.
  • Natural channel shoppers (53%) and drug channel shoppers (48%) are most likely to purchase groceries online.

Technological tools in store and online

Shoppers both online and in store have the advantage of having numerous digital tools and resources at their fingertips, allowing them to create a hybrid grocery shopping experience that’s tailored to their preferences. Case in point:

  • 40% of U.S. grocery shoppers use a retailer mobile app, and 23% of these users spend time seeking deals before visiting the store.
  • More than 58% of U.S. grocery shoppers are interested in scan-and-go technology in store, with usage and interest decreasing with age.
  • 15% of frequent e-commerce grocery shoppers use auto-replenish digital platforms.
  • 56% of male e-commerce grocery shoppers are influenced by social media when shopping online vs 39% of females.

“Whether a shopper is clicking for their groceries or browsing the supermarket aisles, it’s important for brands and retailers to recognize the value and unique benefits offered by both purchase pathways,” says Stewart. “E-commerce does not mean the end of brick-and-mortar stores, but it provides new and different growth opportunities for retailers, which requires them to form a new strategy tailored to how grocery shoppers prefer to buy their foods.”