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More Consumers Shopping for Food Both Online, In-Store During Pandemic: Retail Feedback Group

Study shows trend higher among younger shoppers

The volume of consumers doing a combination of in-store and online grocery shopping has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among younger shoppers, a new report by the Retail Feedback Group (RFG) showed.

Overall, 50% of in-store supermarket shoppers also ordered groceries online, according to the 2020 U.S. Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study, which surveyed 2,000 shoppers nationwide who bought food and groceries in-store and/or online in the past 30 days (from late April into early May). This trend was even more common with Gen Zers (66%) and millennials (61%), followed by Gen Xers (52%), the Silent Generation (38%) and boomers (37%).

“Grocers and analysts have traditionally segmented in-store shoppers from online shoppers. However, a key takeaway from our research is the extent to which individual shoppers are now buying groceries both in a store and online, and that this activity is strongest among the younger and growing generations,” said Doug Madenberg, principal with Lake Success, N.Y.-based RFG. “We now have food shoppers who are able, and increasingly willing, to utilize a blend of physical stores and digital storefronts to meet their families' needs, and it will be paramount to satisfy these shoppers going forward.”

A majority of shoppers (62%) who bought groceries online did so from two or more providers in the past three months, compared to 38% who used just one. This suggests that shoppers tried multiple services to see who could best meet their needs at a time when product availability and pickup or delivery slots were scarce, the study found.

About half of both in-store supermarket shoppers (51%) and online food shoppers (49%) reported they weren’t able to purchase everything they wanted due to out-of-stocks. Furthermore, only 17% of online shoppers said they were able to purchase an acceptable substitution for out-of-stock items, while 45% did not end up receiving all items ordered.

These out-of-stock conditions resulted in lower overall satisfaction for shoppers, the study found. Overall satisfaction among online shoppers was 4.38 on a 5-point scale, down from 4.48 in 2019. While overall satisfaction was down vs. the previous year, marks were still relatively high: Amazon lead at 4.47, followed by Walmart (4.38) and supermarkets (4.33).

“Considering the sudden, sizable pressure on online grocery shopping during the pandemic, it is noteworthy overall satisfaction registered as high as it did,” said RFG Principal Brian Numainville. “Although supermarkets surged in online shopping use, and many customers may stick, the results show some supermarket shoppers don’t expect to continue online shopping. With that in mind, it will be important that supermarkets and online service providers maximize their investment by continually strengthening their offerings in order to retain existing customers, while attracting new ones, along with preparing for any future situations.”

According to the study, 17% of shoppers said they plan to buy groceries online less often in the next 12 months, while 46% said more often and 37% said about the same.  

A full copy of the 2020 U.S. Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study can be obtained by contacting RFG at report@retailfeedback.com.

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