Yesterday, the International Council of Shopping Centers released the results of a survey dubbed “The State of Grocery Shopping.” Conducted over the course of two days in late August by marketing research firm ORC International, the study concluded that the relatively new advent of shopping for groceries online hasn't quite had a sizable impact on the way Americans get their groceries—not yet, at the very least. Most Americans still prefer to shop for groceries in person.
The firm arrived at this verdict after gathering a representative sample 1,012 adults in the United States across a gradient of income levels, segmenting respondents into three age groups: millennials (18–36 years old), Generation X (37–52), and Baby Boomers (53–71).
There are a few mildly enlightening tidbits about consumer habits buried in this report—for example, 79% of all respondents shop for groceries, either in store or online, at least once a week. Yet the most compelling nugget is the fact that consumers overwhelmingly prefer physically traveling to grocery stores to ordering their groceries online. Over two-thirds of grocery store shoppers only purchase items in stores (68%), compared to a paltry 1% who only buy their groceries online. Just a bit under one-third of respondents (31%) purchase groceries both in-store and online.
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I should note that ordering online isn’t synonymous with delivery; most of the respondents who order groceries online fetch their orders in store (74%), while considerably fewer have their orders delivered to their doorsteps by the retailers themselves (44%). Even fewer respondents have their items shipped via mail or courier services (36%).
The most widely-cited reason for shopping for groceries in person was immediacy: Consumers are able to get items instantly when shopping in a store (71%). Respondents also said that ordering online poses too much of a gamble when it comes to product freshness (70%), and they prefer to assess their options in person (69%). Other stated reasons for shopping for groceries in person include:
They enjoy wandering around the aisles (50%).
They like to make comparisons between prices in stores (49%).
They’ve got the ability to interact with store employees if they've got questions (28%).
Grocery stores are a stone's throw away from home or work, or websites are too finicky to navigate (27%).
They can sample different foods in person, an option they don’t have online (17%).
All understandable lines of reasoning. As the practice of ordering groceries online becomes less of a fringe activity, though, I’m more interested in seeing a survey that examines why people get their groceries online. It’ll likely surprise very few people that millennials shopped more frequently both online and in stores (43%) than members of Generation X (33%) and Baby Boomers (22%), indicating that we're facing a future in which ordering groceries online may become a bit more normative.
Do you shop for groceries online? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.