Online Grocery Shopping Still an Emerging Market

Gallup data finds 84% haven't tried it

Author: Monica Melton

August 8, 2017

With Amazon, Walmart and other big players jockeying for a position in the grocery market, it’s easy to forget that digital grocery shopping is still in the early stages.

The latest evidence of that comes from a Gallup survey, which found that most grocery shopping still takes place in stores. 

In fact, many US consumers surveyed—more than eight in 10—said they have never bought groceries online for pickup or delivery. Overall, very few respondents said they placed online grocery orders. Just 5% said they purchased their groceries online once or twice a month. 

Among the relatively few digital grocery shoppers, millennials and city dwellers only marginally outpace their older and more rural counterparts when it comes to buying groceries online.

While older people were less likely to shop for groceries online, as many other studies have pointed out, the difference, when compared to younger people, was only slightly less according to the Gallup study. For example, 15% of 18- to 29-year-olds said they bought groceries online at least 1 to 2 times a month, compared to 10% of 50- to-64-year-olds.

Data about online grocery shopping varies from study to study, with some finding higher levels of activity than the Gallup survey, but others coming in below it.

The consensus of many studies suggests that large numbers of consumers continue to want to touch and feel the food they buy.

A February survey by Unata and Brick Meets Click found that, in 2016, 19% of respondents said they bought groceries online. And in 2017, 31% expect to do so. 

Similarly, a May 2017 study of smartphone users by FieldAgent found that 54% said they never buy groceries online, but almost three-quarters of them expect to do at least a little bit more online grocery shopping five years from now.

Meanwhile, a Morning Consult study from June 2017 shows that roughly one-fifth of consumers have tried online grocery shopping, but that most US consumers weren’t likely to have meat, dairy, or fresh fruits and vegetables shipped to them.