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Survey: COVID-19 drives online grocery sales to new high

Online grocery sales reached a new record in May, after hitting new heights in April.

May online grocery sales in the U.S. increased 24% from the prior month to $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.

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. According to Brick Meets Click/Mercatus analysis, 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 grocery 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. Brick Meets Click/Mercatus analysis indicates this gain further reflects increased capacity, making it easier for people to secure a time slot for pickup or delivery as they face concerns about the COVID-19 virus and shopping in-store.
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. 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 research showed a rebound 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 the COVID-19 crisis.

“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.”

Brick Meets Click conducted an online survey on May 20-22, 2020 with 1,724 adults, 18 years and older, who participated in the household’s grocery shopping. Brick Meets Click’s April and March 2020 research was based on a similar methodology. 

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