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eGrocery Insights – May 2023: Profiling the Online Shopper, Purchase Patterns in the U.S.

Supermarkets Struggle with Online Market Share as Walmart, Target, and Hard Discounters Gain Traction

A recent report from Brick Meets Click, sponsored by Mercatus, delves into the e-grocery purchasing patterns of 42,000+ shoppers in the United States. Based on extensive survey data collected monthly in 2021 and 2022, the report highlights and analyzes how household penetration, spending, and order frequency for eGrocery orders have shifted.

The Importance of Core Customers

The report suggests that retailers should concentrate on pinpointing their most valuable customers and cultivating strong relationships with them to prevent them from switching to competitors. Delivering upon the needs and preferences of these customers is crucial for delivering a superior shopping experience and retaining their loyalty.

Notable Findings

The report reveals several interesting findings that may impact regional retailers and their strategies in the e-grocery space:

Declining online penetration for supermarkets – While the overall base of average monthly users in the U.S. has risen by nearly 3 percentage points, supermarkets’ online penetration has dropped by 2 points in 2022 compared to 2021.

Changes in eGrocery customer demographics – The research analyzed the four major grocery retail formats – Supermarkets, Walmart, Target, and Hard Discount – and discovered shifts in household penetration, spending, and order frequency for eGrocery orders between 2021 and 2022, segmented by income and age groups.

Walmart’s appeal to lower-income households – Households earning under $50,000 per year displayed a 25% higher likelihood of shopping online with Walmart compared to supermarkets. Between 2021 and 2022, supermarkets’ reach into this income group shrank by 150 basis points, while Walmart’s expanded by 210 basis points.

High-income households seeking value – Households with an annual income exceeding $200,000 were almost three times more inclined to shop online with supermarkets rather than Walmart in 2022. Nevertheless, Walmart gained traction with this demographic, boosting its penetration by 210 basis points, while supermarkets’ share fell by 120 basis points in 2022 compared to 2021.

Target’s allure for younger households – Target showed a stronger appeal for younger households (18-29 years old), who were 36% more likely to shop online with the retailer compared to supermarkets. Early-family formation households (30-44 years old) were nearly 30% more likely to choose Target as well.

Walmart’s gaining the affluent crowded – Walmart’s success in attracting upper-income customers has seen a notable development. Though this demographic has traditionally been three times more likely to shop at supermarkets, Walmart has managed to increase its market share among these customers. In 2022, Walmart expanded its penetration in this income group by 210 basis points, while supermarkets experienced a decrease of 120 basis points compared to 2021. This trend underscores Walmart’s ability to appeal to a broader customer base, including the more affluent shoppers who previously gravitated towards supermarkets.

Implications and Recommendations for Supermarkets

This report’s findings provide several important suggestions for regional grocers. They may need to revamp their online strategies to compete more effectively against Walmart, Target, and Hard Discounters. Some key recommendations drawn from the data include:

Understand core online customer segments – Identify and concentrate on the specific requirements of various shopper segments, such as quality-conscious customers or high-income households.

Enhance the online shopping experience – Improve aspects of the online shopping experience that hold greater importance for target customers, instead of relying solely on price competition.

Assess Mass rivals individually – Supermarket operators should evaluate Walmart and Target separately, taking into account differences in customer mix based on income and the primary shopper’s age.

Monitor eGrocery shopper behavior trends – Stay informed about shifts in purchasing patterns among different income and age groups, as well as the factors driving these changes, such as price sensitivity or shopping experience preferences.

2023 Strategies for Grocery Executives

As the competitive landscape in the e-grocery market continues to evolve, grocery executives must adapt their strategies to stay ahead. One key approach is to emphasize non-price factors that can attract and retain customers. By highlighting elements such as promotions, quality of service, and unique product offerings, retailers can differentiate themselves from competitors and appeal to a wider range of customer preferences. This approach allows eGrocers to maintain customer loyalty without solely relying on price as a deciding factor for shoppers.

Communication is also essential in acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. Executives should ensure that their affluent customer base ($200,000+ annual income) understands the value of their offerings. By crafting messaging that resonates with this demographic and emphasizes the benefits of shopping with the brand, retailers can foster a strong connection. Effective communication helps maintain loyalty and encourages customers to continue choosing the brand over competitors like Walmart and Target.

Lastly, grocery executives may reconsider their online pricing strategy. By adopting pricing tactics that reward mutually beneficial behaviors, retailers can create a more engaging and rewarding online shopping experience. This approach not only incentivizes customers to shop with the brand but also promotes a positive relationship between the retailer and the customer.


In conclusion, understanding the e-grocery purchasing patterns in the US is crucial for retailers to thrive in this fiercely competitive market. By identifying their core customer segments and refining the online shopping experience, e-grocers can strategically position themselves against Walmart, Target, and Hard Discounters, ultimately capturing a more significant share of the burgeoning online market.
Mercatus invites you to explore the insights revealed in our comprehensive report, “Profiling the Online Shopper: eGrocery Purchase Patterns in the U.S.”

Sign up for our exclusive retailer distribution list here.

Or contact us today to schedule a consultation, tailored to your e-grocery brand, and discover how these findings can drive growth and success in the rapidly evolving landscape. Together, we’ll devise actionable strategies that address your unique needs and help your grocery business thrive amidst the ever-changing consumer preferences. Don’t miss this opportunity to adapt your strategy and drive revenue growth for your brand.


David Bishop

David Bishop

Partner, Brick Meets Click