Online has yet to dominate the grocery market in the way that it has in other retail categories. In 2017, shoppers spent £6.6bn buying groceries online. That’s a 4.6% rise compared to the same time last year, and faster than in-store sales which grew by 3.4%.
That said, new retail data from Nielsen suggests that online only grew its share to 6.5% of the grocery market in 2017 - up from 6.3% a year earlier. Aylin Ceylan, Nielsen’s analytics business partner, described it as a "rather pedestrian rate". That’s because, she suggests, shoppers in this category tend to stock up both online and in stores. "Two thirds of people who buy groceries do so online, and the average online basket is around four times bigger than an in-store one," she said. However, people who buy groceries online do so on average once a month, adding up to 11 shops a year, compared to nearly 21 a month in-store - or 281 over the course of a year. "The regular smaller top-up shops account for just 18% of online trips compared to 57% in-store," said Ceylan.
When shoppers do buy online they tend to buy heavier items, from categories including pet care, frozen food, baby and toddler items and household and cleaning goods. One in four shoppers say delivery costs are a barrier to buying online - but not for the remaining 75%.
Ceylan says 2018 could be an important year for the category, as new business models emerge. "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 said.