Online grocery sales growing at ‘pedestrian rate’

Online grocery sales in Britain increased by 4.6 per cent in 2017 to £6.6 billion, a third faster than in-store sales which grew at 3.4 per cent, however online’s share only increased from 6.3 to 6.4 per cent across the year.

Nielsen’s continuous 15,000-strong ‘geo-demographically balanced’ panel measures household purchasing through a range of channels, finding that online shopping is dominated by the big shop and weekly trips, which account for twice the share of online trips (82 per cent) than they do for in-store trips (44 per cent).

“Despite the hype and attention given to online and its ability to change the way people shop, the reality seems rather different,” says Aylin Ceylan, Nielsen’s analytics business partner. “Although online spend increased by around £300m last year, a 0.1 per cent rise in market share is a rather pedestrian rate.”

She explained that unlike many other sectors, online grocery shopping is a much more complementary option to stores, not an ‘instead of’ option. On average, people buy groceries online less than once a month (11 ‘trips’ a year) compared to nearly 21 a month in-store (247 per year).

“In other words, the regular smaller ‘top-up’ shops account for just 18 per cent of online trips compared to 57 per cent for in-store,” said Ceylan.

Delivery costs are often cited as a reason why online grocery shopping is not more popular, however, Ceylan noted that whilst free delivery would have the biggest impact on people shopping online, only one in four shoppers said delivery costs are actually a barrier to buying groceries online.

“2018 may be a seismic year for online grocery with the rise of voice assistants from Google and Apple, the Dash button from Amazon, the extension of Click and Collect to more supermarkets all making it easier for shoppers, as well as online meal-kit and ‘box’ subscriptions such as Hello Fresh and Graze offering new purchasing opportunities,” she concluded.

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