About half of online shoppers plan to purchase grocery items more often in the coming year, according to a study released by the Retail Feedback Group (RFG), Lake Success, N.Y.

The research, “2018 U.S. Online Grocery Shopper Study,” rated consumers’ overall satisfaction ordering food and grocery items online, with the highest being Amazon (4.70 on a 5-point scale where five is highest), followed by Walmart (4.54) and supermarkets/food stores (4.36). The research also captured generational differences with online shopping for food and groceries, finding Boomers as the most satisfied (4.65), followed by Gen X (4.51) and Millennials (4.43). 

Fresh department purchases
One of the findings when comparing current study findings to last year's results was the increased purchasing levels of fresh food items based on online grocery shoppers indicating which supermarket type items they buy online. Year-over-year, significant increases were found in many of these departments.

"With an ever-increasing number of online grocery shopping options, consumers are clearly responding and purchasing a wide range of items. The willingness to purchase fresh items in higher frequencies than last year illustrates that providers are improving in their ability to overcome objections that historically have been limiters in these areas. While there is still room for growth, this finding provides encouraging news for retailers and others offering online food shopping services," says Brian Numainville, principal.

Satisfaction with elements of the online shopping experience
Segmenting satisfaction scores on 12 touchpoints of the online shopping experience, including ordering, fulfillment and people elements, by major provider, results in interesting findings, especially when comparing "highly satisfied" marks.   

  • Amazon shoppers—Amazon shoppers rated eight of the 12 elements of the online shopping experience significantly higher than supermarket/food store shoppers and seven elements significantly higher than Walmart shoppers. Walmart and Amazon shopper ratings were not significantly different on five elements.
  • Walmart shoppers—Walmart shoppers rated five elements significantly higher than supermarket/food store shoppers.
  • Supermarket/food store shoppers—These shoppers registered the lowest "highly satisfied" scores on nearly all elements measured vs. Amazon and Walmart online grocery shoppers. There was relative parity with shoppers of the other providers on just two elements.
  • Instacart shoppers—Of the 57% of shoppers who indicated their order was fulfilled by delivery, approximately one-third of those had deliveries that were handled by Instacart. Shoppers who had orders filled by Instacart rated all five ordering factors and most fulfillment factors higher than online shoppers across all supermarket/food store shoppers. People factors were rated similarly.

"Clearly Amazon, Walmart and Instacart are taking advantage of both their experience in the space, and the capital they continually invest, in improving the online grocery ordering and fulfilment experience,” adds Doug Madenberg, principal. “Supermarkets and food stores operating e-commerce on their own or through a third-party platform should take note of Instacart's scores and ensure their service provides an experience at the same or higher level." 

Online vs. in-store grocery shopping
According to shoppers in the study, online grocery shopping strengths include making the most efficient use of their time and more convenience, as well as being more enjoyable and pleasantly surprised. In-store shopping strengths registered as providing products best meeting standards for quality and freshness, offering a better selection of products for shopper needs, making shoppers feel more valued as a customer and providing better customer service. Other areas measured scored about even for both types of shopping.

"It's no surprise that online grocery shoppers find their experience more efficient and convenient,” says Madenberg. “But, the fact that online shoppers find the experience both more enjoyable and more pleasantly surprising than an in-store visit should be a wake-up call for all brick-and-mortar retailers."

Meat category falls short
Shoppers who indicated anything lower than a five on the statement, "The items I received met my standards for quality and freshness," were asked to name the department(s) where quality fell short. About a quarter (26%) indicated meat. 

About eight out of 10 online shoppers (81%) indicated that quality was the top factor they consider very important when purchasing meat online, followed by price (65%) and proper handling/refrigeration during delivery (53%). Among those who do not purchase meat online, the top reasons given were wanting to choose meat items themselves (63%) or that meat items might not be refrigerated properly during delivery (55%).  

The study is based on a nationally representative sample of 760 respondents who shopped online for food and groceries in the last 30 days.