Online Grocery Sales Return to Record Highs in March (Up 43% Compared to Last Year)

published Apr 20, 2021
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American consumers continue to embrace online grocery shopping with open arms after the coronavirus pandemic changed the way we shop, live, and work. According to a recent survey from Brick Meets Click and Mercatus reported on by Grocery Dive, online grocery sales in the U.S. rose $1.3 billion to $9.3 billion in March after a dip in sales in February. Compared to last year, online sales grew 43% in March. 

The survey also found that 69.3 million households placed one or more online orders in March, compared to 74.5 million households last March when the pandemic first started and restrictions first went into effect. This shows that even as things are opening back up, grocery e-commerce is still going strong. 

Pickup orders are up 12% and delivery orders are up 23% compared to last March. The survey shows that pickup is the dominant way today’s online grocery orders in the U.S. are received. Grocers have tapped into this trend by building out stronger pickup services. In March, Albertsons announced that its Drive Up & Go service is the company’s fastest-growing segment, and almost 50% of BJ’s Wholesale Club’s online orders at the tail end of 2020 came through its pickup services. 

The change in preferences for online grocery could have something to do with the investments retailers have made over the year to improve the online grocery shopping experience. Last year, online grocery shoppers faced things being out of stock and difficulty scoring an order time slot. This dented the overall experience and resulted in less than 43% of shoppers saying they intended to grocery shop online again.

Investments in dark stores, e-commerce fulfillment centers, driverless technology, bringing the in-store shopping experience online by adding recipe integration and product suggestions, and working out the kinks of the last mile — all and more have contributed to the rise in repeat intent rate since last year. The latest survey found that as of March, 62% of adults surveyed said they’d use a specific service again, up from 56% in January and 58% in February.