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Survey: Online grocery shoppers have unique habits

online grocery shopping
Grocery shoppers behave differently online and in-store.

A new survey reveals differences in the shopping behaviors of online and in-store grocery customers.

According to the dunnhumby Consumer Trends Tracker, U.S. online grocery shoppers spend more, are less loyal, and struggle more financially than their peers who shop at brick-and-mortar stores. Surveyed omnichannel shoppers spend 1.5 times more on groceries than surveyed in-store only shoppers, but spread their dollars between up to two times as many different grocery retailers.

In addition, respondents who shop for groceries online are 6% more likely than surveyed in-store grocery shoppers to have skipped/cut the size of a meal for financial reasons and 10% more likely to have difficulty covering an unexpected expense. 

dunnhumby analysis suggests that these differences are due to the greater likelihood that omnichannel grocery shoppers have children and pets in their households, which requires higher spending on groceries and can make balancing household budgets less predictable because of the varying demands of its inhabitants.

The study also found that perceived out-of-stocks online are 7% greater than in-store. As a result, surveyed omnichannel shoppers visit up to 6.6 different grocery retailers monthly.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Seventy percent of in-store grocery shoppers and 72% of online grocery shoppers rated as very or extremely important that a grocery retailer had prices that were lower than other retailers – numbers that are virtually the same. However, when forced to make trade-offs, the survey shows that e-commerce grocery shoppers more carefully balance time-savings with money-savings, while brick-and-mortar shoppers are two times more likely to choose a store because of prices. According to dunnhumby, this discrepancy reflects the busier lifestyle of the average omnichannel shopper, who is much more likely to be a caregiver of children or pets.
  • The vast majority of the 45% of respondents that shop for groceries online are omnichannel shoppers. Their monthly average grocery spend is $594 per month, compared to $388 for in-store only shoppers. However, online shoppers spread their dollars across a greater number of retailers monthly – between 3.9 to 6.6 stores per month, compared to 3.2 for in-store only.
  • The grocery channels with the highest e-commerce penetration rates are mass (29%), traditional format (24%) and pure play (17%), in absolute terms. 
  • Almost one in five current in-store only shoppers interact with a store’s app. These respondents use it predominately to browse the weekly ad/circular, check their rewards/points/coupons available, and plan their shop/shopping list.


[Read more: H-E-B tops list of most preferred online grocers]

“What really stands out in this report is that while 60% of all households with children are doing some of their shopping online and despite being higher earners on average than brick and mortar only shoppers, they are struggling more financially and some reported they have had to skip or cut back on meals,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby. “This indicates an evolution from the orthodoxy that the online and omnichannel shoppers value convenience above all and are not price sensitive. This study suggest that is not always the case.”

The Consumer Trends Tracker report can be downloaded here.

dunnhumby surveyed over 2,000 U.S. consumers online in May 2022. 



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