US Online Grocery Sales Keep Surging, Hit a New Record in May

As growth continues, online grocery sales set another record in May, increasing 24% over April sales, to reach $6.6 billion, according to the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Survey fielded May 20-22, 2020.

The survey is part of Brick Meets Click’s monthly monitoring of COVID-19’s impact on consumer behavior and is the third wave of research focused on identifying insights and implications for retailers and brands.

“COVID-19 is affecting the way people shop for groceries, and this research helps retailers to better understand where they need to invest in their online and in-store businesses,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click. The May Scorecard shows how the key performance metrics related to online grocery delivery and pickup service activity have all grown over the past three months.

The total number of online grocery orders increased 18% on a month-over-month basis from 62.5 million in April to 73.5 million in May.

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According to Brick Meets Click, this increase was driven by expanded capacity associated with retailers who reopened their services and others who added more time slots to better meet the surge in demand for these essential shopping services.

Household penetration hit 33% in May (up from 31% in April) as approximately 43 million customers shopped online for groceries during the previous 30-day period. This gain further reflects increased capacity, making it easier for people to secure a time slot for pick up or delivery as they wrestle with concerns about the virus and shopping in-store.

“COVID-19 has accelerated online grocery adoption at a rate the industry hadn’t expected to see for years,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “The online surge may level off slightly as various states strive to return to ‘normal.’ However, what has changed in shoppers’ eyes is the realization of the immediate benefits of online grocery shopping.”

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May’s average monthly purchase frequency climbed 10% versus April, illustrating that online grocery shopping is becoming more established among a broader base of households. In fact, active households in May placed an average of 1.7 online grocery orders for either delivery or pickup, up from 1.6 online orders in April.

The average order value climbed nearly 6% to $90 in May, an increase of almost $5 compared to April. Higher consumer prices starting in April, improvements in product availability, and more customers becoming comfortable with online grocery shopping all contributed to this trend.

Beyond the scorecard metrics, the new research showed are bound in shopper satisfaction from the March low. In May, 56% of customers were extremely or very likely to shop the same provider again within the next 30 days, compared to 47% in March and 50% in April. Even at 56%, purchase intent is still considerably lower than pre-COVID rates, which were closer to 80% according to previous Brick Meets Click research. 

The economic impact triggered by COVID-19 is affecting an increasing number of consumers. The number of U.S. households reporting a dramatic drop in income of 25% or more (versus earlier in 2020) reached almost 50 million for May.

To reduce their grocery spending, many consumers are changing what they buy. This research found that on a net basis, 14% of the U.S. households who purchase private label reported that they bought more private label during May compared to prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

“COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever that moving forward, trust between the retail brand and its shoppers is core to a healthy and long-term relationship,” explained Perrier. “Shoppers at every income level and demographic will continue to expect an efficient, effective, and safe online order and fulfillment experience and will reward grocers who provide this with continued loyalty.”