Online Grocery Shopping Is on the Rise

Increasing usage of online grocery shopping is driven by shoppers’ prioritization of convenience over cost savings
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July 01, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Use of home delivery for online grocery shopping is up 5 points since Morning Consult began tracking in 2021, now at 22%.

  • Millennials, urban dwellers and high income households use online grocery shopping options at disproportionately higher rates.

  • Online shopping doesn’t limit shoppers from trying new things: those who use the service are more likely than others to say they’ve purchased a new brand or tried a new store in the last month.

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A sortable XLSX file of the March 2024 wave of Morning Consult’s food & beverage tracker among U.S. adults and key demographics.
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Online grocery shopping reached new heights during the pandemic, and now it's on the rise again. After massive shopping disruptions, supply shocks and ensuing inflation, we’re seeing grocery prices normalize. With that normalization comes consumers’ willingness and ability to find a little more wiggle room in their budgets to pay for the convenience of online grocery shopping. The service is typically more expensive than doing the shopping yourself, even if there isn’t a line item service or delivery fee: Prices on popular online delivery sites like Instacart are often higher than the prices on store shelves, but more consumers are indicating that the higher costs are worth paying.

Online grocery shopping is on the rise

In a May 2024 survey, 53% of U.S. adults said that it’s “very” or “somewhat” likely that they’ll shop online for groceries and household goods, a series high. Last August, that number was just 44%. Now about 1 in 5 (22%) respondents say they had their groceries delivered in the past month, the most popular form of online grocery shopping. 


More consumers are shopping for groceries online

Share of U.S. adults who bought online groceries in the following ways:
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Surveys conducted October 2021 to March 2024 among a representative sample of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2%.

Shoppers who have their groceries delivered choose the option primarily for convenience (67%), and also to get their groceries quickly (39%) and within a specific time frame (30%). That convenience and time savings justifies paying the additional costs associated with online grocery shopping including higher list prices, delivery fees and (hopefully) driver tips. 

Millennials are big online grocery shoppers

The demographic profile of those who shop for groceries online at least weekly shows that millennials, urban dwellers and high income households shop for groceries online at higher rates than other cohorts. Millennials — particularly those with children at home — are consistently convenience-seekers across retail categories given their current busy life stage. While most online grocery shoppers represent households earning under $50,000 annually, that’s reflective of the size of the lower income population as a whole. High-income households, on the other hand, use online grocery shopping services at disproportionately higher rates than other income cohorts.

Millennials, urban dwellers and high income households over index on online grocery ordering

Demographic profile of those who buy groceries online at least weekly
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Morning Consult Audience gathered 50,524 survey responses June 25, 2203 - June 25, 2024 date with a margin of error of +/-0.4%.

Urban lifestyles add additional challenges to the big weekly grocery shopping trip. Many urban dwellers don’t own a car to haul home heavy bags, and if they do, parking comes at a premium. On the positive side, urban areas are usually better served by widely available fast delivery options, making online grocery shopping even more accessible. 

Online grocery shopping enhances trying new options

Anyone who’s been to the grocery store hungry, on a bad day, or with a child knows that stores are conducive to impulse shopping and trying new things. Good news for grocers, online grocery shopping doesn’t inhibit these options. Price promotions, delivery minimums and digital cross-selling tactics with the added benefit of personalization entice shoppers to add new-to-them options to their online carts. 

Trying new brands and new stores more often is common for online grocery shoppers

Share of shoppers who say they have done the following while shopping for groceries and household goods in the last month:
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Survey conducted April 26-29, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,077 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2%.

Of course, some of these swaps could be unwilling (and often unhinged) substitutions. Substitutions are inevitable when a product is out of stock or the store shopper can’t find the right item. Substitutions are usually fine, but can go awry when the store shoppers fulfilling orders don’t know the customer’s preferences. Social media is also rife with examples of substitutions that defy logic or reason. Still, online grocery shoppers fit neatly into the profile of consumers who try new brands more often, so we can assume most of their exploration is voluntary.

Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.
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