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Kroger shopper-checkout-coronavirus pandemic copy.png The Kroger Co.
Sixty-two percent of grocery customers polled by The Manifest said they still prefer making purchases in person at the store.

Survey: Most grocery shoppers favor in-store purchases amid pandemic

But U.S. consumers are increasingly trying and liking online grocery delivery

Despite concerns about COVID-19, nearly two-thirds of U.S. grocery shoppers still prefer to make purchases in physical stores, according to a survey by business news website The Manifest.

Of 501 U.S. adults polled in late July, 62% said they have favored buying groceries in person at the store over the past three months. At the same time, however, nearly one-quarter of respondents (22%) said they used contactless services such as online grocery delivery and pickup.

“People continue to shop in grocery stores, but they limit how frequently they shop each month by stocking up on more items at one time,” The Manifest said in its research report.

Indeed, the study found that consumers are spending more on groceries during the pandemic. Though 47% said their grocery spending hasn’t changed, 38% reported shelling out more money for food shopping. Only 15% indicated a decline in grocery spending.

Manifest COVID Grocery Survey-Spending.png

“With limited restaurant and eating options, people’s spending habits on food have changed. More than one-third of people say their average grocery bill has increased during the pandemic,” according to The Manifest. “About one-quarter of people (23%) say their grocery bill has increased by more than $50, while 15% say it has increased by less than $50.”

Among those using online grocery services, delivery holds a slight edge. Twelve percent of consumers surveyed said they use grocery delivery versus 10% using pickup. On the delivery side, that percentage represents a more than tripling of the share of U.S. grocery shoppers using that service.

“While only 12% of people have used grocery delivery services during the pandemic, this change still indicates a significant uptick in the popularity of grocery delivery services,” The Manifest noted.

With many people seeking safer ways to buy groceries, they’re also recognizing the convenience offered by online services. More than half (52%) of survey respondents cited time savings as the main draw of grocery delivery, followed by safety (11%), no parking or fuel expenses (10%), personalized order history (7%), bulk ordering (4%) and online discounts (4%).

Manifest COVID Grocery Survey-Delivery Benefits.png

“As people switch to using grocery delivery services, they consider the benefits: an on-demand service versus traveling to a grocery store,” The Manifest explained. “Saving time can be a major asset to a busy consumer. Ordering groceries online allows people to search for items quickly, select the type of food they want and order it to their home at a time that works best for them. Using the past-order history button can also make reordering groceries easier than scanning the aisles for individual items.”

Still, as more people have used online grocery services, they’ve encountered some pitfalls, such as added expense from delivery and service fees, unacceptable produce and inconvenient delivery/pickup times. Twenty-two percent of grocery shoppers polled by The Manifest named fees as the top challenge in online grocery, followed by produce quality (17%), drop-off times (11%), customer service issues (10%), waste (9%) and data security (5%).

“The majority of people still shop in physical stores to buy groceries, which indicates that delivery services have room to improve, such as with fees and produce quality,” The Manifest said in its report.

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Among online grocery providers, Instacart garners the most confidence from customers, the study showed. Fifty-three percent of respondents cited Instacart as the most-trusted grocery delivery service, well ahead of AmazonFresh (21%), Ahold Delhaize USA’s Peapod (5%) and Walmart (4%).   

“Grocery delivery services still have a long way to go in terms of customer experience: People say fees are too high and the produce selected is not always ideal,” The Manifest’s study concluded. But the report added that the grocery e-commerce channel continues to build a sizable consumer following. “With large numbers of people trying out grocery delivery services for the first time and liking them, supermarkets may need to prepare for long-term competition.”

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