A survey out from Gallup last week showed that the vast majority of Americans are not shopping for groceries online. According to Gallup, “Eighty-one percent of Americans say they never order groceries online, while 11% say they do so at least once a month.”
Gallup posited the following explanation for American hesitancy when it comes to online grocery shopping, writing:
The slow adoption of online food ordering could indicate that people enjoy picking their own groceries in person or that they don’t see sufficient savings of time or money to justify the switch. The delivery charges that go along with food delivery may be a factor in that.
That sounds pretty dire for the grocery industry, which is investing pretty heavily in online ordering and fulfillment mechanisms. But one of the good things about this stat is that we have a similar Gallup poll from almost exactly a year ago to compare it to. If you are looking for a silver lining, last year Gallup found that 84 percent never bought groceries online. So there’s been a three percent drop in the number of “nevers.”
Additionally, there’s more (relatively) good news to be found if you dig into the numbers a bit. Last year Gallup found that 14 percent of adults with children under 18 bought groceries online at least monthly. The 2019 survey found that 19 percent of those with children under 18 bought groceries online at least monthly. So if you’re playing the (very) long game, there are more families online grocery shopping, and they are raising a new generation that will grow up believing online shopping is the normal way to get groceries.
The Gallup stats should be taken as a piece of a bigger set of data around the evolution of grocery shopping. While it was small, Gallup did find an increase in the number of people who have at least tried online grocery shopping this year. In May, Coresight Research found that between 2018 and 2019, there was an increase of 35 million people who shopped for groceries online. And in July, a Field Agent survey found that 66 percent of its respondents expect to be buying their groceries online in the next five years.
Having said all that, in-store shopping is still the way to go when it comes to groceries for most Americans. Gallup’s 2019 found that 83 percent say that they shop at grocery stores at least once a week, which is why the biggest opportunity for grocers may be investing in curbside pickup (which many are already doing). Curbside pickup allows people to maintain their regular life schedules, and gives them an opportunity to inspect items at the store in case any need to be returned.
My guess would be this time next year, Gallup will show another year of incremental growth in online grocery shopping. But as big investments from Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons move out of testing and into real life, the adoption for online grocery shopping will accelerate soon after that.