Shoppers who have turned to online grocery ordering during the pandemic aren’t changing course any time soon. A new survey from Oracle Grocery Retail shows that 53% of U.S. respondents have shopped online for groceries during COVID-19, and a whopping 93% of those surveyed say they plan to do so after the pandemic, with 74% noting they’ll order at the same pace or even more than they currently are going forward. And it’s not just young people. The survey found that 72% of Gen X respondents (defined as those ages 40 through 54) led the way with online ordering, and the share of online Boomer shoppers (age 55+) soared 173%.
Home delivery is one especially hot area, with 72% of consumers opting for this service. Just 13% order online to pick up in store and 15% order online to pick up their groceries curbside.
“So many trends that were already in motion have been greatly accelerated by the pandemic,” says Bob Burke of Natural Products Consulting LLC, adding that many will remain long after the pandemic is behind us. “All the elements of online, like direct-to-consumer, home delivery and curbside pickup, will be elevated and part of the normal mix of how brands and retailers will intersect with consumers.”
Some good news for retailers who offer store brands is that private label is growing in the pandemic. Oracle’s survey found that 86% of shoppers explored store-owned brands and private label alternatives during the pandemic, and just 20% plan to go back to preferred brands. "The surge in private label purchases has become the unexpected silver lining of COVID-19 for grocers," said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Retail, in a statement. "Consumers uninterested in trying something new were forced to branch out due to shortages and now plan to stick with their new finds. This allows grocers an opportunity to increase brand affinity with customers and, in turn, their margins."
If you ask Burke, this may not be enough and independent retailers who haven’t yet started to move at least some of their services online need to tackle the learning curve, understand what investments need to be made and shift online where it makes sense for their customers and store.
“The reality is that consumers’ expectations around convenience, service and instant gratification, as well as product knowledge, transparency in sourcing and value, is going to keep evolving,” he says. “Smart retailers need to be tuned into this and generally open to adapting, consistent with their values, their brand and their resources.”