How Are Consumers using Online Grocery?

I’ve been called many things, but as I have noted in this blog before, one of the most distinctive is that I am a ‘Black Belt’ on the Brick Meets Click website.  I am not sure what I have done to obtain this status, and due to other commitments I do not get as involved as I might have liked, but nonetheless, I do find the material there to be of great interest.

As might be gleaned from the title, Brick Meets Click (BMC) is about the role of technology in (mostly) grocery retailing.  It is an American based website but draws its Black Belts and discussion from across the globe.  If you are interested in how technology is changing retailing, then this site should be high up on your must read agenda.

If nothing else (and there is lots more) BMC is the source of interesting summary reports on issues, as well as some primary research into aspects of the topic.  And it is its latest report that I want to mention and summarise here.

‘How consumers are using online grocery and what it means for retailers in 2016’ is a new study of 12,000 US grocery shoppers.  The use of online grocery is a well-trodden area, especially here in the UK, but this report adds some wider understanding of the changes in a different context.

The snapshot table below summarises the findings:



Some of this is not that unexpected; the rise of grocery internet/online retailing is well known.  But, putting figures on this is always valuable.  Other elements however are more interesting perhaps:

  • The ways in which even ‘standard’ store focused trips are informed or enhanced by some digital activity has grown strongly e.g. recipes, lists, price checking
  • Whilst major grocery shopping online remains a relatively minor activity (15%), online grocery is dominated by specific food product online shopping (61%). This varies between reasons of scarcity and availability.
  • The survey showed that 12% of online grocery trips were based on food subscription services. This figure is for me perhaps the most surprising in the study.  What is the UK equivalent? As BMC say, ‘this is a new source of convenience’

The study concludes that online grocery is no longer a sideline and has more impact on more households than the headline figures suggest.  This signals the structural shift that is underway in this market and the threats major retailers are having to confront.  These challenges can only get greater, both in the USA, but also here in the UK and Scotland.As if to reinforce this, last week’s Retail Week included the following figures in its Retail Statistics of the week:

online stats 20160001

Source: Retail Week, 18th March 2016

We are living in interesting and changing retail times. Though I still want to know what all these subscription food services are?

Brick Meets Click can be found here and lives on Twitter as @BrickMeetsClick

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in BrickMeetsClick, Click and Collect, Consumer Lifestyle, Food Retailing, Online Retailing, USA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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