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Online Grocery Sales Total $8B, Flat Versus Last Year

online grocery sales for March 2024

The overall U.S. online grocery market ended March with total monthly sales of $8 billion, holding steady compared to a year ago, according to the most recent Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopper Survey, fielded March 29-30.

These monthly results are an improvement over March 2023, when total monthly online sales had fallen 8 percent on a year-over-year basis. Current sales are 23 percent above the levels posted in March 2020, the initial month of the pandemic in the U.S.

“While most people recognized that the pandemic was a catalyst for buying groceries online, few could fully anticipate the implications of that surge,” said David Bishop, partner at Brick Meets Click.

“Now, four years after COVID-19 first impacted our everyday lives, eGrocery in the U.S. looks very different from both a contribution and growth perspective, and this will impact how grocers and others expand and drive profitability in their respective businesses moving forward.”

From a contribution perspective, pickup and delivery share has grown at the expense of ship-to-home.

Pickup, which accounted for less than one-third of online grocery sales in 2019, quickly moved to the top spot when the pandemic started and it has stayed there since, expanding 586 basis point (bps) from March 2020 to 43.2 percent this year. Delivery, which represented one-quarter of all online sales in 2019, experienced an even larger jump in market share, expanding by 1,488 bps during the same period to end March 2024 with 39.1 percent.

The past four years of sales results shows that total online grocery sales for March peaked in 2021 and have declined or been flat on a year-over-year basis since then. In terms of the specific methods customers use to receive those online orders, ship-to-home crested in March 2020, pickup crested in 2021 and delivery did so in 2022. Recently, ship-to-home posted a gain of 5.9 percent in sales in March 2024 versus last year, while pickup’s sales were unchanged and delivery’s monthly sales dipped 2.6 percent.

The ongoing research shows that the size of the online grocery customer pool has become more well defined and that future growth will likely happen more gradually. In March 2024, the total online grocery customer pool (which consists of active and lapsed or infrequent users), expanded to include 78.6 percent of all U.S. households, up just 13 bps versus the prior year and slightly less than the 16 bps it grew in March 2023 versus 2022.

In contrast, at the end of the first month of the pandemic in 2020, online grocery household penetration finished at 70.8 percent. And, while the overall online grocery Monthly Active User (MAU) base as a share of total households more than doubled at the start of COVID-19, finishing March 2020 at 57.5 percent, the share of MAUs since then has generally remained in the 50 percent range.

“Helping customers build their basket of goods by using tactics like personalized offers or targeted deals is not just key to growing sales but also to improving the chances that they’ll come back again,” said Mark Fairhurst, global chief growth officer at Mercatus.

“For today’s grocers, keeping your online customers engaged is more important than ever as growth is now more likely derived from increased order frequency and/or spend per order.”

Another challenge for most brick-and-mortar grocers is building a mobile app that assists customers as they shop, whether that’s online or in-store.

Mass retailers, like Walmart and Target, have invested heavily in enhancing the perceived value from using their mobile apps and it shows. The latest research found that 76 percent of households that primarily buy groceries from Walmart and who also buy groceries online completed one or more online grocery orders with Walmart during March 2024. For the households that primarily shop at a supermarket and buy groceries online, only 60 percent of those households bought groceries online from a supermarket.

About the research

The Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey is an ongoing independent research initiative created and conducted by the team at Brick Meets Click and sponsored by Mercatus.

Brick Meets Click conducted the most recent survey on March 29-30, 2024, with 1,810 adults, 18 years and older, who participated in the household’s grocery shopping, and a similar survey in 2023, 2022, 2021 and March 2020.

Results are adjusted based on internet usage among U.S. adults to account for the non-response bias associated with online surveys. Responses are geographically representative of the U.S. and weighted by age to reflect the national population of adults, 18 years and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read more technology news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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