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Acosta said 58% of consumers report being comfortable using digital and online tools to help with food shopping, up from 35% in 2015.

Nine in 10 grocery shoppers use smartphone at the store

‘Grocery mobile-ization’ has reshaped shopping experience, Acosta study says

For U.S. food shoppers, the smartphone has joined carts, reusable bags and kiddie seats as indispensable tools at the supermarket.

Nearly nine out of 10 U.S. grocery shoppers (89%) now use a smartphone at the store, up from 67% in 2015, new research from CPG sales and marketing firm Acosta reveals. What’s more, 58% of consumers polled report being comfortable using digital and online tools to help with food shopping, compared with 42% in 2017 and 35% in 2015, according to Acosta’s “The Mobile-ization of Grocery” report, released yesterday.

Overall, the United States has more than 260 million smartphone users, the study said. Unsurprisingly, younger consumers are more apt to use a mobile device at retail, with 93% of those ages 18 to 39 saying they use a smartphone when shopping. 

That also goes for the grocery store, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta said. Seventy-one percent of Millennial/Gen Z customers (ages 18-39) indicate they’re comfortable using digital/online tools when grocery shopping, compared with 66% for Generation X (ages 39-55), 44% for Baby Boomers (ages 55-74) and 35% for “Silent Shoppers” (ages 75 and older).

“Smartphones have grown to become a huge part of daily life, so it’s only natural that retailers and shoppers are connecting this technology with the grocery buying experience,” Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta, said in a statement. “We saw increased ‘mobile-ization’ numbers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shopping experience has significantly changed, and many consumers are limiting their trips to the grocery store and being as efficient as possible with their time in the store. To do this, they are looking to mobile solutions more and more.”


Indeed, this year, 34% of shoppers said they view their grocery store circular online, and 26% access the digital circular via their grocer’s mobile app. Similarly, 30% of the nine in 10 respondents who use a grocery shopping list (paper, mental or mobile) indicated they opt for a mobile list, up from 23% in 2015.

More than seven in 10 shoppers report using a grocery retailer’s app, Acosta’s report said, adding that consumers use the technology to place online orders, find products in the store and participate in loyalty programs, among other tasks.

Coupons, too, have decidely gone the digital route. According to the study, 30% of grocery shoppers redeem online/mobile coupons downloaded to their smartphone, up from 24% in 2017 and 19% in 2015. Forty-four percent redeem electronic coupons downloaded to their shopper loyalty card, versus 35% in 2017 and 28% in 2015. At the same time, redemption of coupons printed from a coupon website has declined to 26% in 2020 from 32% in 2017 and 35% in 2015.


Redemption of printed grocery coupons is down across the board, at 44% for coupons received in the mail (-9% from 2015), 35% for coupons in a retailer’s circular (-15%) and 44% for coupons from a newspaper/mailed flyer (-10%).

“Mobile-assisted grocery shopping is here to stay and offers a great opportunity for brands and retailers to truly meet the needs of today’s shoppers,” Stewart added. “By delivering an end-to-end approach from mobile recipe/meal planning and list making to e-commerce and an in-store experience that is enhanced by mobile, they can not only attract more customers but also engage with them in new and meaningful ways, during the pandemic and beyond.”

Social media has emerged as a key food and groceries channel, Acosta noted. Of grocery shoppers polled, 48% said they follow brands/products and 44% retailers/stores through social channels for special promotions or discounts, new items, special events or sales, and product ideas and recipes.

In addition, 15% of U.S. grocery shoppers (and 27% of Millennial shoppers) think it’s important to check a social media site at the store, while 19% (and 32% of Millennials) believe it’s important to share a grocery promotion with friends or family via social media.

Acosta said “The Mobile-ization of Grocery Shopping” report reflects findings from its proprietary U.S. Shopper Surveys this fall (Sept. 25 to Oct. 5), comparison data from its past studies (2015-2019) and information from industry research.

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