Mercatus user placing a pickup order

Latest Research Findings Show How Omnichannel Grocery Shopping Behavior Has Evolved

Grocery shopping behavior has evolved significantly over the past couple of years, confirmed by the results gathered from our latest surveys. Here’s what you should know to shape your strategy.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought a new reality to eGrocery, one that continues to transform our industry. But what exactly does that transformation look like? And what lies ahead? Those are the questions we wanted to explore in Mercatus’ latest Omnichannel Shopper Behavior Report 2022.

Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the report offer insights on how US households shop for groceries in the new normal, what their evolved state of expectations are, and how retailers can optimize their strategies and operations to meet those changing preferences and rising expectations.

The first survey was conducted from June 30 to July 1, 2022, and the second one was fielded from August 25 – 27, 2022, wherein approximately 2000 adults shared their grocery shopping preferences.

The results of the surveys are summarized in volume 1 and volume 2 of the Omnichannel Shopper Behavior Report 2022 respectively.

Analysis of the survey results yielded some key insights about how grocery shopping behavior in the US has transformed. The trends we uncovered highlight not only what’s going on right now – but also what grocery shopping will look like in the future.

This is important information that can help you refine your strategy and plan for the technical innovations that will help you stay relevant to shoppers and capture higher returns and growth.

Let’s take a quick look at the four key grocery shopping trends highlighted in the survey reports:

1. Grocery shoppers look to maximize convenience and reduce costs

As Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and customers were able to return to in-person shopping, our survey revealed that 90% of regional supermarket customers shopped in the grocery store as it allowed them to select their own product, avoid any extra cost or any additional effort with placing online orders.

For households across age and income groups, cost continued to be a major factor guiding their grocery shopping behavior. When the delivery fee was fixed, customers chose to receive their order within 1 to 3 hours or the same day itself.

However, for variable delivery fee orders where the amount charged was based on when the order was received, more than 40% of customers ended up choosing a slot in the next day for a reduced fee. And when given a choice, most grocery shoppers indicated their willingness to receive their order at a later time slot to reduce the additional fee.

Mercatus variable fee structure graph

The research also concluded that shoppers are far more sensitive to additional and explicit costs that get added to their order amount, and not so much to the difference in in-store and online grocery pricing.

When asked about preference towards delivery over pickup, all age groups cited convenience as the primary reason for their choice. However, convenience was the most important to younger age groups.

Mercatus Top 7 reasons why households use grocery delivery service graph

What you need to know: The online grocery market will continue to evolve drastically and cost vs convenience will always be a major dilemma in the minds of consumers. However, as a grocer, it is up to you to provide the best customer service across channels by offsetting your operational costs to enhance profitability.

2. Demographics reveal important differences in online grocery shopping behavior

In this year’s survey, we included additional demographic breakdowns to the data collection. We broke down responses according to age groups and also looked at grocery shopping behavior based on respondents’ household incomes. It was interesting to see how diverse demographic segments had different preferences and choices when it came to grocery shopping.

For example, we discovered that inclination towards signing up for grocery loyalty or subscription programs was the highest among 30-44 year-olds and $200K+ households.

Mercatus households that have memberships subscription graph with orange highlights
Mercatus households that have memberships subscription graph

Also, while all age groups united on choosing pickup for its low cost, younger age groups selected pickup primarily for its shorter wait times, which goes to show that priorities and preferences go hand in hand and can never be the same across demographics.

Mercatus you 5 reasons customers opted to use pickup graph
* Share of households that used Pickup within the past year.

What you need to know: Understanding your customers’ needs and preferences is key to eCommerce success. Review the survey findings to learn where you can adjust your strategy and personalize your offers to better serve the demographic makeup of your particular customer base.

Mercatus user arriving to pickup a grocery order

3. Grocery pickup is the new drive-thru

Fulfillment is an integral component of the online grocery shopping journey, so our survey takes an in-depth look at how orders get into the hands of shoppers.

Our key takeaway from the 2022 survey: grocery shoppers in the US chose pickup as their preferred fulfillment method as it allows them to save on explicit additional charges (associated with delivery), while enjoying the convenience that comes with selecting their desired and precise pickup slot.

Mercatus how households received most recent grocery pickup order graph
* Share of households that used Pickup within the past year.  Doesn’t equal 100% as “not sure” is excluded. Grocery includes both Regional Supermarkets (e.g., Food Lion, HEB, Hy-Vee, Publix, Raley’s, Weis, Wegmans) and Hard discounters (e.g., Aldi, Lidl, Save A Lot); Big-box discounter (e.g., Target, Walmart); Wholesale club (e.g., BJs, Costco, Sam’s). 

Pickup gives grocery shoppers more control over when and how to receive their orders and the flexibility to choose what works best for them. For most, curbside pickup wherein orders are placed in their car trunk without them having to leave the vehicle is the pinnacle of convenience that they will continue to rely on.

What you need to know: Brick-and-mortar grocery stores will continue to be the bedrock of fulfillment. Making the right investments to ensure a quality pickup experience for your customers is pivotal to a successful future.

4. The future of grocery shopping is mobile

One fascinating and incredibly important finding of this year’s survey is that shoppers are increasingly using their retailer’s mobile app to check-in during order pickup and also to share their location, so that their items can be handed off well in time. It’s clear that modern grocery shoppers have come to embrace technology, especially mobile – as it makes their experience far more convenient and streamlined.

Mercatus how customers received most recent grocery pickup order graph
* Share of households that used Pickup within the past year.

The transition to mobile is a trend that’s occurring in many industries: banking, retail, healthcare, entertainment, food service. It makes sense that grocery shopping – inherently an “on-the-go” activity – would follow suit and it’s only a matter of time before shoppers start depending completely on mobile for ordering as well as fulfillment.

What you need to know: A fully omnichannel experience that offers the ability to shop in-store, online and by mobile app is now essential. If you haven’t yet invested in an online grocery shopping platform, or if the experience on your app needs improvement, this is the time to address it.

Stay up to date on what today’s shoppers want and learn how grocery shopping behavior has changed since 2020. View demographic breakdowns, market projections and insights for grocers in the Omnichannel Shopper Behavior Report 2022 Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Looking for more ways to refine your omnichannel grocery strategy? Check out these resources:

Headshot of Mark Fairhurst

Mark develops the overall marketing strategy for Mercatus and leads the team responsible for market insights, branding, product marketing and demand generation.