Despite the numbers, online grocery sales remain high

The Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey found a double-digit dip in online grocery sales for April versus a month prior, but the sales earned online are still four times higher than pre-pandemic measures.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Online grocery sales last month may have decreased by 10% compared with the sales numbers seen in March, but the month still generated $8.4 billion in online grocery sales, a total that is four times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The April 2021 sales figures came in under the $9.3 billion earned in March of this year but by an annual comparison the sales were up by 16%, according to the rolling Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey fielded April 26-28


“Online shopping has remained an attractive way to buy groceries for a sizable segment of the U.S.,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click. “Last year, retailers were in a race to meet the dramatic surge in demand. This year, it’s about executing a sound and sustainable strategy, with the imperative squarely on improving integration and implementation.”

The ongoing independent research initiative, created and conducted by Brick Meets Click and sponsored by Mercatus, found that 67.8 million U.S. households bought groceries online in April, a 12% decline versus a year ago. However, this decline in shopper base was offset by more engagement as April’s monthly active users placed more delivery and pickup orders. These orders accounted for 78% of April 2021 total online grocery sales.

Monthly active users placed an average of 2.73 online orders during April 2021, up slightly from 2.68 orders one year ago. Year over year, the share of orders received via the ship-to-home segment dropped nearly nine percentage points, with pickup and delivery gaining six and three percentage points, respectively.

Last month’s average order value of pickup, delivery, and ship-to-home orders dropped 6% versus the prior year on an order-weighted basis. The repeat intent rate, which measures the likelihood that a monthly active user will make another order within the next month with the same grocery service, jumped to 55% for April, up five percentage points versus a year ago, but continues to remain significantly below pre-pandemic intent. Among less satisfied users in April 2021, 11% are still searching for an acceptable alternative as they are extremely or very likely to use another service in the next month.

“As the country opens, we’re consistently seeing double the number of active online shoppers compared to pre-COVID,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “At the same time, we know there’s increasing frustration with poor execution as evidenced by the widening repeat purchase gap between first- and fourth-time online customers. My message to grocery retail executives is blunt. There are no shortcuts. If you want to maximize the value of your digital investment, you also need a well-thought-out operations plan — one that can flex in response to shopper demand and help deliver a top-notch ordering and fulfillment experience.”