Some of the stats we’re watching closely as our nation slowly comes out of the pandemic are those for online grocery sales. Namely, will the e-commerce curbside pickup and delivery habits consumers were pushed into during lockdowns stay now that we can literally breathe easier back in stores?
Thankfully the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey is keeping track, and according to the numbers released yesterday, U.S. online grocery sales were $8.4 billion in April. This is down 10 percent from March’s $9.3 billion, but up 16 percent from April 2020.
Brick Meets Click/Mercatus found that 67.8 million U.S. households bought groceries online in April, which is down 12 percent from a year ago. While there were fewer households, those that purchased groceries online bought more. Monthly active users placed an average of 2.73 online orders in April 2021, up a tick from 2.68 orders a year ago. Of these orders, 78 percent were for delivery and pickup, which were up 6 percent and 3 percent year-over-year, respectively. The ship-to-home category, however, dropped 9 percent year-over-year.
The survey also showed that more households are using two or more online grocery shopping methods (curbside pickup, delivery, ship-to-home), with 35 percent of monthly active users receiving orders through two or three different methods in April 2021, up nearly 3 percent year-over-year (and 20 percent from pre-pandemic August 2019).
“Online shopping has remained an attractive way to buy groceries for a sizable segment of the U.S.,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click in the April survey press announcement. “Last year, retailers were in a race to meet the dramatic surge in demand. This year, it’s about executing a sound and sustainable strategy, with the imperative squarely on improving integration and implementation.”
The last part of Bishop’s statement is key. Grocery retailers have been investing heavily over the past year in systems to encourage and improve curbside pickup and delivery. Walmart is adding automated fulfillment and pickup kiosks, Albertsons is expanding the use of pickup lockers and testing delivery robots, while Amazon is expanding delivery inside your garage while you’re out. All of this investment, however, is predicated on the notion that people will continue to shop for groceries online after the pandemic recedes. It’s still too early to tell, but we’re eager to see what Brick Meets Click/Mercatus reveals throughout the year.