A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Online Grocers Are Getting a Preview of Their Future, highlights how grocery retailers are seeing a surge in online orders in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. According to the article, 40 million households ordered online last month, about double the number from August 2019 data. While this far exceeds retailers’ current capacity for online fulfillment, the challenges of current events give them insight into the future as more consumers adopt online platforms for their regular shopping, the WSJ article notes. 
We believe that with COVID-19 impacts sending new users to online platforms, retailers have the opportunity to communicate transparently about the evolving situation and leave the door open to capturing more online trips in the years to come. Hartman Group research currently being conducted in partnership with FMI: The Food Industry Association (see the U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker) shows that online grocery shopping is seeing significant growth as consumers try to minimize human contact. While online shopping has been growing steadily over the last several years, 23% report turning to online orders more during the coronavirus pandemic, and 18% believe they now spend more online for groceries, compared to their prior grocery shopping habits. Twenty percent say they have placed an online order for groceries for the first time this past month. Online shoppers are taking advantage of a wide array of online delivery options being offered, including home delivery, at-store pickup and standard shipping.
As grocers confront the immediate logistical challenges of increased demand for online orders, consumers are encountering their own, significant hurdles — but may well be interested in continued use of the technology once capacity improves. The Hartman Group’s past food shopping research has tracked a gradually growing population of online shoppers whose assessments of the channel indicate trial as key to tackling consumer perceptions of online’s shortcomings. Importantly, online has the potential to deliver where in-person shopping really suffers — when shoppers have less control over their circumstances.
Further information:
FMI: The Food Industry Association