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US eGrocery Sales Trends with Brick Meets Click – March 2024 Insights

March U.S. eGrocery Sales Total $8 Billion, Holding Steady With Previous Year

The results from the Mercatus/Brick Meets Click March 2024 Grocery Shopping Survey are now available. Once again, the latest data provides the basis for several important insights and strategic recommendations for grocers.

But first, let’s look at the top-line sales figures.

The U.S. eGrocery market totaled $8 billion in March, holding steady with where it was one year ago. This balance represents aleveling off after eGrocery’s peak in 2021, but the numbers from the last two years are also 23% higher than pre-pandemic sales.
March 2024 US Online Grocery Sales

This confirms that the eGrocery market has retained most of the pandemic-related surge in online shopping — even as many market factors return to normal. Now, as we move forward into a new upward cycle for eGrocery sales, the sales figures from March 2023 and 2024 represent a baseline from which future growth can be measured.

For more analysis on the latest eGrocery sales, including a deeper look at how the past four years of sales results are influencing the current market, keep reading below.

March 2024 US Online Grocery Sales

How Do This Month’s Sales Represent A New Baseline?

By looking at sales figures since March 2020 (as illustrated in the image above), we see how topline eGrocery sales for March peaked in 2021 ($9.3 billion) and have declined or been flat on a year-over-year basis ever since.

Even though market conditions are returning to where they were before the first month of the pandemic in the U.S., current eGrocery sales are holding steady at more than 20% above where they were in March of 2020.

This suggests we’ve achieved a level of market normalcy in eGrocery sales, while having retained much of the surge in online shopping originally brought about by the pandemic.

Pickup Remains eGrocery’s Receiving Method of Choice

Despite the overall trend toward stability, ​​March’s sales figures aren’t without some interesting fluctuations in eGrocery receiving methods.

Ship-to-Home saw a modest increase of 5.9% in sales compared to last year, contrasting with a slight 2.6% decrease in Delivery sales and Pickup sales that remained unchanged YOY.

Even though the YOY numbers for Pickup are steady, it’s worth nothing the sharp increases it’s experienced over the past four years including a 10% increase in monthly active users (MAUs) and a 586 basis point increase in market share of sales. These two figures reaffirm its current position as the preferred eGrocery receiving method, a position it’s held since its peak in March 2021.

Cross-Shopping Is On The Rise

With nearly 27% of customers who bought groceries online through a Supermarket also placing orders with Mass Retailers in March, retail giants like Walmart still pose a substantial threat to grocers.

Ongoing economic pressures and decreased purchasing power continue to drive this trend forward, making customer retention more important than ever before. Implementing strategies such as personalized offers and targeted deals through loyalty programs can help grocers improve customer retention rates — but more on that, later.

Disparity in Customer Engagement

Competing with the mobile shopping experiences offered by Mass Retailers represents another pressing challenge for traditional grocers. The disparity in customer engagement through these platforms is evident, as 76% of households that primarily shop online at Walmart completed an eGrocery order with them in March, compared to only 60% for those who shop at Supermarkets.

Key Takeaways from March 2024 eGrocery Sales:

  • The U.S. eGrocery market totals $8 billion in March 2024. The year-over-year stability of this figure suggests the eGrocery market is stabilizing. While less than its 2021 peak, this month’s figures still represent a 23% increase since the first month of the pandemic in the U.S.
  • With 44% of the market, Pickup remains the preferred eGrocery receiving method. Pickup and Delivery’s growth since the beginning of the pandemic and their continued success over Ship-to-Home underscores the importance of convenience as a consumer driver, long after the pandemic made Pickup and Delivery necessary.
  • The share of U.S. households that used only one receiving method during the past 30 days climbed 340 bps to 71.7% from March 2020 to 2024. Even though consumers continue to have strong preferences for how they receive their online grocery orders, as noted above, the method that households use has shifted considerably.
  • In March 2024, the total eGrocery customer pool expanded to include 78.6% of all U.S. households, up 13 basis points versus the prior year. This slight increase suggests the size of the online grocery customer pool has become better defined and future growth is likely to happen more gradually.
  • Cross-shopping between Grocery and Mass Retailers was at 27% last month. Before COVID-19, only 15% of customers who bought online from grocers also completed an online grocery order from a large retailer during the same month. This suggests consumers have not only gotten used to the increased convenience of online cross-shopping, but also that purchasing power continues to be a strong motivator for many households.

Strategic Recommendations

Retaining Customers Is More Important Than Ever

At the threat of sounding like a broken record, a focus on customer retention is once again at the top of the list for our strategic recommendations.

As topline sales and the eGrocery customer pool stabilize, it’s going to be more important than ever to keep customers satisfied, engaged, and shopping at your stores. From the insights above, we know that consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience introduced by online shopping at the beginning of the pandemic, but that they’re also driven by value due to changing economic circumstances.

The best way to retain customers is by pairing these two drivers through greater personalization, providing a more engaging customer experience with personalized product recommendations and offers related to past purchases and browsing history.

Greater Engagement Brings Greater Sales

Providing this level of engagement is vital for grocers looking to compete with Mass Retailers, as witnessed by the success Walmart and Target are finding through heavy investments in their mobile apps.

By providing more customer assistance —online and in-store — through their apps, the big retailers are encouraging more repeat visits and more sales. Grocers may not be able to compete with large retailers on the price points of individual products, but they can utilize technology to better engage customers and provide a shopping experience that goes beyond the merely transactional.

Personalized Loyalty Programs Reduce Cross-Shopping

Speaking of merely transactional, one of the best ways for grocers to provide a better customer experience and reduce the trend toward cross-shopping is by enhancing loyalty programs to offer something in addition to nominal transaction-based rewards.

With more than a quarter of Supermarket shoppers also making grocery purchases from Mass Retailers last month, “Thank you for choosing our store. Please enjoy 5% off your next purchase” is simply not an effective means of keeping customers loyal.

Instead, personalized messaging and customized discounts can be utilized to reach customers on a personal level, enhancing their loyalty and the overall value of a loyalty program.

Customer Data Is Your Most Important Tool

If we look at each of the recommendations listed above, all are dependent on the utilization of customer data. Enhanced loyalty programs, individualized customer engagement, and personalized product recommendations are impossible without an in-depth understanding of each customer’s individual shopping preferences and habits.

While many grocers are collecting data, few are utilizing it as effectively as they could to build more meaningful relationships with their customers. This doesn’t have to be a lost opportunity. An investment in the right technology can help utilize customer data to stem the tide against cross-shopping and customer attrition.

Closing Thoughts

After looking at the sales data and reading through the analysis from this month’s Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey, it should come as no surprise that the central theme is stabilization.

But as the steadiness of sales figures and the consistency of the customer pool creates a new baseline from which grocers can measure their future growth, it’s vital to recognize the role that technology will play in leveraging data for personalization and customer engagement to create a brand new upward cycle.

As always, thank you for reading.

For more details on this month’s eGrocery sales numbers, read the complete press release here. And stay tuned for next month’s analysis.

Speakers

Mark Fairhurst Headshot

Mark Fairhurst

Chief Growth Officer, Mercatus

David Bishop Brick Meets Click

David Bishop

Partner, Brick Meets Click