Abandoned Carts: Conventional Grocers' Online Sales Slid in 2021

While mass retailers saw e-commerce gains, online order volumes and value sagged for traditional grocers
Brick Meets Click 2021 Benchmarking survey
Image courtesy of Brick Meets Click

Click-and-collect didn't connect as well for conventional grocers in 2021, new research from grocery analytics firm Brick Meets Click suggests.

Both online order volumes and average online order value fell for conventional grocers through most of 2021, Brick Meets Click reported Jan. 18. On a same-store basis, online grocery sales at traditional grocers fell 6.8% for the 12 weeks ending Sept. 28 vs. the year-ago period. That nearly 7% slide was driven by a 3.1% decrease in the number of online orders and a 3.9% drop in the average order value. 

Conventional grocers' faltering online sales is in contrast with e-commerce's overall trajectory within grocery. "We know from our monthly eGrocery shopping survey that mass is driving the online grocery sales gains in the broader U.S. market," Brick Meets Click partner David Bishop said in a statement about the new research. 

Last week, the Barrington, Ill.-based research firm noted that the online channel accounted for almost 13% of U.S. shoppers' grocery spend in 2021, up nearly 2 percentage points from 2020. In addition, across all grocery retailers, the average number of online orders placed per month by those who buy groceries online consistently stood at 2.74, down only 1% from 2020.

What spurred the decline in online sales for conventional grocers and the gain for mass retailers? Part of it likely had to do with consumers' enthusiasm for returning to more-regular in-store shopping through most of 2021, in particular at their trusted, convenient neighborhood grocer. In addition, mass retailers have successfully positioned their online ordering channels as offering one-stop-shop convenience—and generally without any fees or order minimums for curbside pickup, unlike many traditional grocers.  

Among Brick Meets Click's other findings: 

  1. Consumers craved choice. "Weekly online grocery sales for stores that offered both pickup and delivery were 44% higher than stores offering only delivery and 55% higher than stores offering only pickup," the firm reported.
  2. Only 49% of stores in the survey sample offered a choice of pickup or delivery.
  3. In a switch from 2019 (the last year the benchmarking survey was conducted), grocery stores in midsize markets saw higher weekly online sales than stores in more heavily populated areas. That change probably resulted from a growing number of competing online grocery and food delivery services in urban centers, according to the firm. 

Data for Brick Meets Click's eGrocery Performance Benchmarking 2021 Wave came from online transaction data (not personally identified) from more than 900 stores across 45 U.S. grocery banners. 



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