Back to Specialty Food News

Report: Generational Differences Among Online Grocery Shoppers

More consumers are buying groceries online than a year ago, according to new research from Acosta Group. The research also showed some sharp differences in online grocery shopping behaviors by age group.

Acosta’s annual consumer survey found that 55 percent of shoppers reported buying groceries online at least some of the time, up four percentage points from a year ago. The growth was driven by an increase in the percentage of consumers who shop online regularly but still shop mostly in-store. That group accounted for 20 percent of respondents in this year’s survey, vs. 17 percent who buy most or all of their groceries online and 18 percent who only occasionally buy groceries online.

The research also found that 80 percent of shoppers who order online for store pickup also shop for additional items in the store when they pick up their order, which is an increase of 10 percentage points over last year’s survey. The majority of these consumers said they either forgot to include some items in their order or they wanted to specifically select certain items themselves.

More than two-thirds of online grocery shoppers — 68 percent — said they shop online at mass merchandisers such as Walmart or Target, while 55 percent do so at grocery stores, which is the same percentage that said they buy at online-only retailers. A third of respondents — 33 percent — said they shop online for groceries at club stores.

Of interest to specialty food retailers and manufacturers, 62 percent of survey respondents agreed that they can find specialty items online that they can’t find in the store.

The research also found that the overwhelming majority of online shopping orders begin either on the retailer’s website or mobile app, vs. a third-party ordering service such as Instacart.

Generational Differences

Older and younger online grocery shoppers showed some stark differences in the way use these services. For example, Baby Boomers are much more likely to know exactly what they want to order and stick to a list, while Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases.

For example, 82 percent of Millennials said they buy an add-on item suggested at checkout at least occasionally, vs. 69 percent of consumers overall. Millennials also reported being much more likely than other consumers to buy new items or brands for the first time and buy items they did not intend to buy.

Younger shoppers are also much more inclined to place small orders for a few ingredients that they need for a meal or recipe. Seventy-five percent of Gen Z respondents said they do this at least occasionally, along with 73 percent of Millennials. That compares with only 47 percent of Gen X shoppers and 28 percent of Boomers.

Similar differences among the age groups were seen in the use of home delivery, with 65 percent of Gen Z and 62 percent of Millennials saying they have received home deliveries of groceries in the past six months, versus 45 percent of Gen X and 36 percent of Boomers. The use of store pickup was more consistent across generations, although Millennials made the most use of this service, at 60 percent, versus 51 percent for all consumers.

The report also found that 38 percent of shoppers are seeking grocery delivery in three hours or less and that men are more willing to pay more for speedy service. Fifty percent of men said they were willing to pay $7 or more for fast delivery, versus 19 percent of women.

A large majority of online shoppers surveyed—84 percent—said they are pleased with the online grocery shopping experience. The survey polled 1,308 U.S. primary online grocery shoppers July 7-13.

“Today’s online grocery shoppers are younger and digitally savvy and are using online grocery shopping in new ways,’ said John Carroll, president, Acosta Group Digital Commerce and Advanced Analytics. “Their expectations are set for convenience and accuracy, as well as an integrated experience across the digital and physical shelf.”

He noted that ongoing online grocery sales growth will likely come primarily from existing buyers, rather than new customers, which reinforces the importance of providing high levels of service, inspirational digital shelf content, and personalized offers.

Related: Ecommerce Up in AugustGiant Food Modifies Ecommerce Offerings