The Retail Feedback Group (RFG), Lake Success, N.Y., released the 2019 U.S. Online Grocery Shopper Study.

Channels shopped and overall satisfaction
More than half of the respondents tried or shopped with only one online grocery provider in the last 12 months. About 20% indicated they shop mostly or only online for food and groceries, while 32% indicated they shop online and in-store about equally, and 48% mostly shop in-store and occasionally shop online for food and groceries. Fulfillment by pickup appears to be “picking up” with 47% of those surveyed now indicating their orders were picked up (compared to 43% last year).

This year’s research found Walmart (37%) surging ahead of Amazon (29%) in terms of shoppers indicating the provider used on their most recent online grocery shopping experience. While supermarkets/food stores (22%) held about even with last year, they registered the highest percentage of shoppers (22%) indicating first-time use for online grocery shopping.

Turning to overall satisfaction among those buying food and grocery items online, Amazon still registers the highest score on a five-point scale where five is highest (4.60; a drop from 4.70 last year), followed by Walmart (4.45; a drop from 4.54 last year) and supermarkets/food stores (4.43; an improvement from 4.36 last year). Shoppers with orders fulfilled by Instacart have an overall satisfaction score of 4.58, similar to that of Amazon, and higher than both Walmart and supermarkets/food stores.

The research also captured generational differences with online shopping for food and groceries, finding Boomers remain the most satisfied (4.56), followed by Gen X (4.48) and Millennials (4.45).

“As Walmart increases their focus on online grocery shopping, it appears to be resulting in more trial given the surge in shoppers reporting using Walmart for their most recent online grocery shopping experience, beating out Amazon,” says Brian Numainville, principal. “At the same time, supermarkets/food stores also appear to be gaining ground in increased overall satisfaction, as compared to last year, and now register the highest percentage of first-time users, showing positive momentum for the channel.”

Satisfaction with key touchpoints of the online grocery shopping experience by provider
Segmenting satisfaction scores on 12 key touchpoints of the online shopping experience, including ordering, fulfillment and people elements, by major provider, results in the following findings.

  • Amazon shoppers rated six of the 12 elements of the online shopping experience significantly higher as compared to how supermarket/food store shoppers and Walmart shoppers rated their providers.
  • No elements were rated significantly higher by Walmart shoppers compared to supermarket/food store shoppers’ ratings of their provider. Further, Walmart shoppers did not rate any element significantly higher for Walmart than Amazon shoppers rated these elements for Amazon.
  • While supermarket/food store shoppers still recorded lower satisfaction scores on about half of the elements measured vs. Amazon and Walmart online grocery shoppers, there was increased parity with shoppers of these other providers on five elements.
  • Of the 53% of Instacart shoppers who indicated their order was fulfilled by delivery, approximately one-fourth of those had deliveries that were handled by Instacart. Shoppers who had orders filled by Instacart rated just two factors considerably higher than supermarkets/food stores.

Online vs. in-store grocery shopping
Efficiency and convenience remain hallmarks of online food and grocery shopping, coupled with an enjoyable and pleasantly surprising experience. On the other hand, providing products best meeting standards for quality and freshness remain somewhat of an advantage for in-store shopping. In general, however, it appears that the differences between online and in-store food shopping are moving to more equivalence in the minds of shoppers. For seven of the 12 factors measured, 50% or greater of shoppers find the factors are equal for both types of shopping.

“These results show that the growth and maturation of online grocery shopping continues to erode the advantage once held by the shopping experience at a physical store,” adds Doug Madenberg, principal. “Consider, for example, that 71% of shoppers now indicate that showing a company knows and cares about food is equal for both online ordering and shopping in-store.”

Enticed to purchase additional items
Shoppers were asked if they were enticed to purchase additional items during their online order. Of the 39% that answered affirmatively, the top reasons were “noticed it was on sale or a good value” (62%), “noticed it was new or interesting” (34%), remembered I needed the item(s) while placing my order (31%), noticed it was fresh or in-season (18%) or the site/app recommended the item(s) based on my cart or prior purchases (17%).

Fresh department findings
In last year’s study, the findings illustrated increased levels of purchasing fresh food items by online grocery shoppers. This growth appears to be holding with fresh food departments again registering double-digit percentages in produce (41%), meat (36%), bakery (35%), deli meats and cheeses (32%), prepared foods and meals (26%) and seafood (14%).

“Based on the study findings, it appears that shopping online for fresh items is now a more accepted part of the online grocery shopping experience,” says Madenberg and Numainville. “This growth may be a combination of a broader cross-section of shoppers engaging in online shopping, as well as more experience by online providers in successfully meeting the expectations of consumers in these departments. At the same time, among those shoppers not giving top marks for meeting standards for quality and freshness, produce is the department with the highest percentage of mentions (45%).”

Bakery trends
About eight out of 10 online shoppers (82%) indicated that freshness was the top factor they consider very important when purchasing bakery online, followed by quality (68%) and price (51%). Among those who do not purchase bakery online, the top reasons given were wanting to choose bakery items themselves (57%) or that bakery items might not arrive fresh (45%) or have a good shelf life date (36%). Breads and cookies were the top items shoppers indicated purchasing online.