How the Coronavirus Has Impacted the Digital Grocery Space

Since the pandemic made its way to the U.S. in mid-March, consumers have grown accustomed to their grocers adapting and changing at a much faster pace than the years before. In fact, before March, much of grocery innovation had remained the same for the better part of the last two decades. 

However, with stay-at-home orders issued across the country, many consumers now choose to shop online for their groceries, a luxury not many individuals had access to or interest in before the pandemic. Big box retailers aren’t the only ones taking the heat – brick-and-mortars, delivery startups, and e-commerce retailers are all adjusting to recent changes in the grocery industry to better care for customers at a distance. 

According to a series of surveys conducted by CivicScience in March 2020, during the week of March 22, 37% of U.S. adults said they were digitally shopping for groceries. In June, online grocery sales hit a record high of $7.2 billion as over 42 million households chose shopping online over shopping in-store.

In a recent article by Supermarket News, reporters noted that Amazon again led the field as an e-grocery shopping destination. In this year’s survey, 62.6% of consumers said they bought groceries online from Amazon in the past 12 months, compared with 52.3% for Walmart, 22.9% for Target, 15.2% for Costco Wholesale, 13.9% for The Kroger Co. (multiple store banners) and 13.2% for Whole Foods Market. 

While keeping up with cleanliness and accessibility initiatives, Walmart leverages its brick-and-mortar footprint to drive online shopping through click-and-collect options, while Amazon maximized on their Prime membership to offer free, fast shipping and fewer price restrictions. While the two retail giants have revitalized the grocery shopping experience, the pandemic has given other grocers a chance to get ahead as the marketplaces struggle to meet demands. 

A March 2020 survey conducted by CivicScience found that just 9% of US adults had been able to digitally order groceries during the pandemic without any issues. One in three respondents experienced delays in digital grocery orders or were unable to place an order. However, as consumers get used to the “new normal,” these retailers will too.