Which Categories Are Online Grocery's Biggest Winners?

Snacks and shampoo are online go-tos, and product reviews online and in-store can spur trial, new survey finds
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A survey of more than 11,000 grocery shoppers from Chicago-based product-ratings specialist PowerReviews finds that nonperishable packaged foods and personal-care products are the items most likely to land in shoppers' online baskets. 

The survey, conducted in February, also found 71% of consumers saying that they had made an only grocery or CPG purchase in the past three months, down slightly from 73% who said the same a year ago. However, more than half of respondents—57%—said the share of their overall grocery spend from online purchases had increased in the past year.

A plurality of consumers, 28%, said they buy groceries online monthly; one-quarter said they grocery-shop online weekly. 

Consumers' go-tos when buying online were:

  • Nonperishable packaged foods (e.g., breakfast cereals, canned soups, snack foods): 70%
  • Personal-care items (e.g. shampoo, soap): 70%
  • Household cleaning/home-care items: 66%
  • Soft drinks, including juice, soda and bottled water: 61%
  • Fresh-perimeter foods: 56%
  • Frozen foods: 54%                    
  • Baby-care items: 20%
  • Alcohol beverages: 20%

Even when they're buying groceries in-store—which some 97% of online shoppers say they also do—consumers are digitally connected, according to PowerReviews: 89% of survey respondents said they use their mobile phone in grocery stores to help them shop, up 2 percentage points from last year. 

And PowerReviews, which provides software that helps companies collect user-generated reviews and other user content, reported that consumers the company surveyed said they were more likely to purchase a product they hadn't tried, whether online or in-store, if they were able to read reviews first. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they'd be more likely to buy an unfamiliar grocery or CPG item while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store if product reviews were readily available; an even larger share said reviews were likely to spur new-product trial online.

Star ratings, consumer reviews of specific product attributes and overall volume of ratings were the review elements that consumers said they paid the most attention to. Gen Z consumers (those born since 1997) had the strongest affinity for product reviews, especially for online grocery purchases: 35% of Gen Z respondents said they always consult ratings and reviews when buying groceries online, vs. 20% of millennials, 15% of Gen Xers and 13% of baby boomers who said they do. 

Consumers also indicated that online channels is where they're more likely to try new products: 25% said they're more open to buying products they haven't tried before when shopping online than when shopping in-store. That's up from 20% who said in 2021 that online wins out over in-store when it comes to trying new products.

"In the post-COVID era, grocery shoppers continue to buy online at high levels," said Andrew Smith, PowerReviews' VP of marketing, in a news release. "However, a higher percentage of shoppers have also returned to or continued to shop at brick-and-mortar grocery and consumer packaged goods retailers. A hybrid strategy is needed to attract these consumers, because while it makes sense to invest in digital, grocers can ill-afford to do so at the expense of their brick-and-mortar operations."




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