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Forecast: Consumers' use of grocery apps to nearly double this year

Grocery apps are among the fastest-growing apps in the United States, and their momentum shows no sign of slowing.

This year, 18.0 million U.S. adults will use a grocery app at least once a month, up 49.6% over last year. This is based on smartphone users who have at least one grocery app on their phone, according to a forecast from eMarketer.

When analyzing the adoption of apps that primarily deliver produce and perishable items, including meal kit services, more than one in five adult smartphone m-commerce buyers will use a grocery app to order food by next year.

“Shoppers are becoming more comfortable with ordering online in general, and grocery is a part of that,” said eMarketer senior analyst Patricia Orsini.

The key hurdles for ordering fresh produce and other perishable items online typically has been delivery time, and the desire to hand-select produce and meat. The good news is more retailers are overcoming these hurdles.

“Retailers have been able to transcend these barriers with click-and-collect models of delivery — order online, pick up in-store. And if the shopper is ordering from their regular grocery store, familiarity helps them trust that the products will be of the quality they expect,” Orsini added. “A bad experience, however, could turn consumers off for good, so retailers need to ensure they provide a good experience from day one.”

According to the report, robust growth for grocery apps is being fueled by the Amazon/Whole Foods merger and Walmart, which is expanding its grocery delivery from six cities to 100 by the end of the year. Yet, the general food and beverage category (which includes non-perishables) is one of the most under-penetrated within the U.S. e-commerce market. At $14.94 billion, food and beverage retail e-commerce sales will represent just 2.8% of all U.S. e-commerce sales this year.

“The percentage of online grocery sales remains small, [but] it is one of the fastest-growing online categories,” Orsini said.

“While no one expects the number of brick-and-mortar grocery stores to seriously decline, the options consumers will have to purchase groceries will increase,” she said. “Retailers recognize this; they are improving their online offerings in order to retain market share.”
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