online grocery shopping hero

What do online grocery shoppers want?

Three in four Gen Z and millennials are placing small orders for a single meal or recipe, reflecting a comfort with delivery services. 
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor

There has been a slight uptick in online grocery shopping over last year, with 55% of grocery shoppers buying groceries online at least some of the time, according to Acosta Group's recently released annual online grocery shopping study.

This upward trend is driven by more consumers who are shopping online regularly but still shopping mostly in-store.

"We learned in this year's study that frequent online grocery shoppers are up to 50% more likely to purchase perishables such as breads and pastries, dairy, produce and frozen for pick-up or delivery, which we attribute to a higher level of trust and familiarity with the fulfillment processes," said Kathy Risch, senior vice president of consumer insights and trends for the Acosta Group.

When it comes to placing an order, 49% of online shoppers are starting at a retailer's website or app with their lists, and 85% (90% of higher income shoppers) are using digital coupons.

[Read more: Threats and opportunities facing retail pharmacy]

For grocery pickup shoppers, 80% also are going into the store when picking up their order, either because they forgot to purchase an item online or they prefer to select specific items. This is a 10% increase over last year, reflecting consumers' growing desire to have the in-store experience as well as the convenience of online shopping and pickup.

The retail grocery pickup channels most frequently shopped:

  • 68% Mass merchandisers
  • 55% Online-only retailers (such as Amazon)
  • 55% Grocery
  • 33% Club

"We've seen that post-pandemic, consumers have returned to in-store shopping, and they want a seamless omnichannel experience where all items online are available at the same price as in store, and all items in store are available for pickup and delivery," said Risch. 

A key takeaway for brands and retailers: online grocery shoppers, especially millennials, are highly likely to purchase and try new items and are very likely to buy on impulse.

As expected, convenience is highly valued when it comes to pickup and delivery fulfillment of online orders. Most online grocery shoppers (63%) will consistently use one type of fulfillment method.

[Read more: How can retailers shift their mindset to serve tech-savvy customers?]

Younger online grocery shoppers are heavy users of each – using delivery services at twice the rate of Boomers. The favored delivery providers are Instacart and Walmart+, followed by Prime, DoorDash and Uber Eats, with high satisfaction levels for these services.

  • Store pickup: 60% of millennials and 50% of Gen Z
  • Delivery to home: 62% of millennials and 65% of Gen Z

"Delivery shoppers often want the items fast," said Risch, "Thirty eight percent are using delivery options of 3-hours or less, and men are far more willing to pay a higher fee for speed." For shoppers with limited flexibility who live in urban areas, have children, or work outside the home, the delivery timeframe window is critical. 

A key takeaway for brands and retailers: three in four Gen Z and millennials are placing small orders for a single meal or recipe, reflecting a familiarity and comfort with the use and cost of delivery services. 

According to the Acosta Group study, 84% of online grocery shoppers report high satisfaction with the online grocery shopping experience. This is encouraging news as it's estimated that online grocery sales will nearly double to $342 billion by the end of 2027, according to Insider Intelligence-Digital Grocery Buyers 2023.

"Today's online grocery shoppers are younger and digitally savvy and are using online grocery shopping in new ways," said John Carroll, president of Acosta Group digital commerce and advanced analytics. "Their expectations are set for convenience and accuracy, as well as an integrated experience across the digital and physical shelf."

Future online grocery sales growth will come primarily from existing buyers vs. new buyers, so building trust through exceptional service, inspirational digital shelf content and personalized offers will be key, the study said.

Shopper research was conducted July 7-13, 2023, with 1,308 U.S. primary online grocery shoppers, members of the company's proprietary Shopper Community. The Acosta Group Shopper Community is comprised of more than 40,000 demographically diverse shoppers across the United States and is the company's proprietary community for survey engagement. 

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