Online grocery sales were back up in March, following a drop in February, according to new data released today by Brick Meets Click/Mercatus. Grocery e-commerce in the U.S. hit $9.3 billion in sales (the same as January), with more than 69 million households placing an average of 2.8 orders in March.
Brick Meets Click also highlighted the continued dominance of curbside pickup as the main preference for online grocery shoppers. From the Brick Meets Click press announcement:
“Over the last 12 months, consumers’ dramatic shift to online grocery shopping has solidified, with curbside pickup attracting the largest share of monthly shoppers at 53% compared to ship-to-home and delivery,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “In fact, pickup continues to have stronger consumer demand across all market types compared to delivery. Those brick-and-mortar chains that have invested in optimizing pickup services likely will continue to benefit from the high repeat intent rate as indicated in the data.”
The dominance of curbside pickup can be partly attributed to the fact that big retailers have invested so much in it. From expanded drive-up options to smart lockers to automated curbside pickup kiosks, retailers have increased the availability and convenience of curbside options.
One area of online grocery shopping that saw a drop from the same time last year was the ship-to-home category, which lost 27 percent of its monthly users. In addition to local retailer pickup and delivery options becoming more robust, the first wave of the pandemic last year saw a lot of panic buying and inventory outages. As such, people turned to whatever outlet they could find to get food delivered to their homes including CSAs and online meat providers.
Of course, the question we’ve been asking for a few months now is what does the future look like for online grocery? More people are fully vaccinated and able to return to a (relatively) normal life outside of their homes. Have their pandemic-induced behaviors changed for good when it comes to grocery shopping? Or do they miss roaming the aisles. The real numbers to watch will probably be the stats from May when the two week wait times after being vaccinated really start to kick in.