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Online grocery shopping is here to stay
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Online grocery shopping is here to stay

Obviously, you must have read left and right about the new habits adopted by consumers during the pandemic. One of the things we all noticed is that online grocery shopping soared. But would the consumers keep this habit once lockdowns are over and the freedom of movement is back in place? Well, thanks to a recent survey we have an answer. 

Mintel commissioned consumer research among 1,970 internet users aged 16+ in December 2020. The company conducted the survey amongst UK consumers, but this kind of data will surely be comparable to other countries. 


9 out of ten plan to keep buying groceries online

According to the survey 90% of Brits plan to keep shopping for their groceries online once the peak of COVID-19 passes. Meanwhile, just 5% of shoppers say they are planning to stop doing so*.

An impressive three in five (59%) Brits are online grocery shoppers**, up from 50% in 2019 - this represents the highest level of growth recorded in the past decade***. In addition to user growth, the category is experiencing increased usage from existing users, with over half (53%) of online grocery shoppers doing more shopping through the channel as a result of COVID-19. Less than one in ten (7%) current online grocery shoppers had not used the online channel before the pandemic, rising to 14% of over 65s.


Balance in the short term, but Covid will leave a legacy boost

Mintel forecasts Brits will spend £19.4 billion on online grocery shopping in 2021, a decline of 13% compared to 2020, as the market rebalances following extraordinary demand during the pandemic. However, the online grocery market is expected to get a ‘legacy boost’ from the pandemic: Mintel forecasts the market will be worth £22.4 billion by 2025 - a £4.9 billion increase over pre-pandemic forecasts.  

 Nick Carroll, Mintel Associate Director of Retail, commented the numbers: “We’re witnessing a step-change in online shopping engagement caused by the pandemic, as evidenced by the vast majority of consumers who plan to continue online grocery shopping once we’re past peak-COVID.

The pandemic has created new models for buying groceries online and it’s not just the core ‘big-basket’ online grocery services that will benefit from this boost. The explosion of new rapid-delivery businesses has finally created an online ‘small-basket’ option for customers, while subscription services and meal-kit providers have hit all-time sales highs. Alongside this, greater engagement in social media commerce has opened up new opportunities in direct-to-consumer, with grocery manufacturers cutting out retailers and selling directly to consumers. So not only have new shoppers been enticed into buying their groceries online as a result of the pandemic, but in the future there will also be a broader range of online grocery shopping opportunities.

The next few years will, however, also be a period of rebalancing as consumers reassess what circumstantial behaviours from 2020 they will stick with, and retailers decide what aspects of their rapid scaling of online operations are sustainable long-term. Indeed, managing heightened online demand, while simultaneously encouraging some shoppers back into stores, will be a delicate balancing act for retailers. Click-and-collect will play a crucial part as the bridge between retailers’ digital and physical customer base.


Seniors are more likely to go back to physical stores

Although there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Seniors (consumers aged 65+) shopping online, according to Mintel research, they are among the most likely to return to grocery stores. Almost two in five (38%)**** of them plan to either stop using online grocery services or continue to use online grocery services but do most of their shopping in-store; this compares to an average of 30% of all online grocery shoppers.

While Seniors are most likely to head back into grocery stores, they are also the most likely to seek the continuation of COVID-19 safety measures. Nearly seven in 10 (68%) Seniors would like to see personal sanitisation stations remain in-store; compared to an average of 58%. Meanwhile, over three in five (61%) consumers aged 65+ would like compulsory mask-wearing to continue once the outbreak has eased; compared to an average of 52%. An overwhelming four in five (82%) of all shoppers feel that retailers need to be stronger with customers who ignore COVID-19 restrictions.

Nick Carroll explained further: “With many older consumers having received both vaccine doses, the over 65s are now more confident to shop in-store. Typically smaller basket sizes and more free time also adds to the attraction of returning to the shops for this age group. Although the number of COVID-19 cases is declining compared to the start of 2021, it is important retailers do not lose sight of hygiene and safety issues. While in the short term restrictions may limit some footfall, an unsafe shopping environment will be a far bigger hit to footfall than the perceived in-convenience for a minority. However, even though the successful vaccine rollout is easing concerns, irrespective of guidance, it will be important to keep COVID-19 safety measures in place in the medium term”.



* An additional 5% don’t know what their post-pandemic plans are with regard to their use of online grocery services.

** Including consumers who do: 

all grocery shopping online; 

most of their shopping online; 

some or a little of their grocery shopping online, but most of it in store. 

*** Since 2012.

**** This includes 10% who plan to stop using online grocery and 28% who plan to continue to use online grocery services but do most of their shopping in stores





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