- Consumers are becoming more comfortable with shopping in brick-and-mortar grocery stores as the percentage of the population inoculated against COVID-19 continues to rise, according to survey data released on Tuesday by Inmar Intelligence.
- About 15% of survey respondents who said they have been or plan to get vaccinated intend to limit their shopping to online modes. "[That] means everybody else in some way shape or form is going to go back in-store or do both," said Craig Rosenblum, vice president of industry transformation at Inmar.
- Shoppers are also embracing technology that promises to make trips to the grocery store faster and more convenient, Inmar reported in a separate announcement about the survey.
Even as trepidation among consumers about the safety of grocery stores eases, there are clear signs that the pandemic has caused lasting shifts in how people view the role of technology in how they shop, whether or not they visit physical retail locations.
A sustained embrace by shoppers of online shopping is at the heart of the transformation in how people view grocery shopping, Rosenblum said. While most people can be expected to return to stores at least some of the time, the vast majority are likely to be omnichannel consumers going forward, he said.
More than four in 10 of the 1,000 participants in Inmar's Grocery Retail Survey indicated they have ordered groceries for pickup or delivery during the past six months, and 38% intend to rely on a combination of online and in-store shopping even after being inoculated.
"If you think about the hybrid model for a moment, it's not going anywhere anytime fast. As comfort for society comes back into play with the vaccines, [shoppers] are going to continue to go back to the store … but it will never be what it once was," Rosenblum said, "A hybrid [model] will always stay in play."
The survey, which was conducted on March 25, also showed that people's comfort level with technology has grown to the point that just a few percent of shoppers view online ordering as an obstacle to buying groceries, Rosenblum said.
"Over 90% of the shoppers are more than comfortable with people who are coming to their home or delivering their groceries or picking their groceries or whatever the case may be," he said. "So there virtually aren't any technology or people hurdles [to grocery e-commerce] as you think about this new world we live in today."
However, certain aspects of e-commerce might be standing in the way of even greater adoption of online grocery shopping, particularly when it involves delivery. Those hurdles include delivery surcharges, the product quality and the availability of delivery slots, all of which were concerns for between 14% and 18% of participants in the firm's research.
Inmar's findings about the acceptance of technology by shoppers is in keeping with numbers from supermarket chains that underscore strong interest among shoppers in buying groceries online. On Monday, Albertsons reported that its store pickup service, Drive Up & Go, grew 865% over the past year and showed even greater strength during the fourth quarter. In March, Kroger reported that it also saw exceptionally strong digital sales in 2020.
The strong interest in e-commerce and in-store technology Inmar saw comes against a backdrop of increasing foot traffic in grocery stores that had seen a dropoff in visits during the pandemic. For the six weeks between Feb. 22 and March 29, foot traffic at Trader Joe's stores — which do not offer online ordering — was higher than the chain saw in 2019, according to data released on April 20 by Placer.ai. Meanwhile, while foot traffic at Amazon-owned Whole Foods was down 17.9% year-over-year during the week of March 29 — that figure represented the grocer's strongest in-store traffic in months, Placer.ai reported.