LAKE SUCCESS, NY - The Retail Feedback Group (RFG) has released its Fall 2020 US Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study, which provides key insights from online and in-store supermarket shoppers, collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Key findings from the survey include:  

Supermarkets rebound from earlier 2020 scores on core experience factors and satisfaction 

Compared to April, nearly all the core experience factors for supermarkets improved, with the sharpest increases seen on a five-point scale, where five is highest. Overall satisfaction improved to 4.23 from 4.08. 

Still room to improve supermarket differentiators     

Shoppers weighed in on several factors that help supermarkets differentiate from competitors, rating how their primary store fared. The two highest scoring areas were providing good value for money spent and friendliness of employees, but the scores themselves were low (3.63 and 3.62, respectively, on a five-point scale). 

“While we saw a rebound for overall satisfaction, and across nearly all core experience factors, supermarkets need to weigh differentiators and how to leverage them in the current environment,” said Doug Madenberg, RFG principal. “In particular, a focus on providing good value for money spent remains a must based on economic conditions. Further, although a challenging time, employee friendliness could never be more important given the high impact it has on the likelihood of shoppers to recommend the store to others.”  

Frequency moderating, shoppers still spending more, safety concerns remain 

While a larger percentage of shoppers (39%) indicate they are shopping for food and groceries at about the same frequency as pre-pandemic, compared to 20% earlier this year, 34% shop less often (a substantial change from 55% in April) while 27% shop more often (similar to 25% earlier this year). 

Nearly half (45%) of the shoppers in the survey reported spending more now as compared to pre-pandemic, a similar finding to 51% in April. A higher percentage spend about the same now (38% versus 30%) and just 18% spend less (versus 19% previously). 

While 77% of shoppers report they plan to continue shopping the same frequency at supermarkets in the next year, only a third (32%) are highly confident it is safe to shop in one, showing virtually no change from 33% earlier in the year. 

Stockpiling continues 

Similar to earlier this year, shoppers continue to keep a supply of products on hand for longer periods of time, from categories throughout the store, including fresh and shelf-stable items. For instance, 59% of shoppers now keep canned and boxed items on hand for a few months or more compared to 43% pre-pandemic. Considering frozen foods, 45% of shoppers keep a few months on hand now, versus 34% pre-pandemic. 

In-stock conditions improve 

The percentage of shoppers reporting the supermarket had everything in stock they wanted to purchase jumped to 76%, up from 49% in earlier in the year. Online, this improved to 68%, up from 51%. 

Dual channel shopping holding steady at increased levels 

Earlier this year, 50% of instore supermarket shoppers in the last 30 days also ordered groceries online. Current findings reinforce these earlier findings, as shoppers continue to use both instore and online channels to fulfill their needs in similar proportions, strongest among the younger and growing generations. 

Walmart grows online use, supermarkets decline, Amazon rebounds  

With the highest percentage of shoppers indicating they most recently used Walmart for online grocery shopping (47%), Walmart continues to show growth, up from 40% earlier this year. After increasing to 34% in April, up from 22% in 2019, supermarkets dropped to 25%, while Amazon grew slightly from 14% to 18%. Instacart fulfilled orders continue to increase, growing from 27% in 2019, to 36% earlier this year and now registering 43%. 

When asked about purchasing grocery items online in the coming year, supermarket shoppers register the lowest intent with 32% saying they will do so more (a decrease from 44% earlier this year), compared to 48% of Walmart shoppers and 54% of Amazon shoppers. 

Overall satisfaction among online shoppers rebounded, up to 4.44 compared to 4.38 earlier in the year, on a five-point scale.  

“As online shopping stabilized over the last several months, overall and channel satisfaction improved,” said Brian Numainville, RFG principal. “Walmart benefitted most from the surge in online shopping, showing continued growth, while supermarket shoppers slipped downward with the lowest percentage of shoppers, compared to Walmart and Amazon, indicating they plan to purchase grocery online in the coming year. However, with many shoppers continuing to shop online and in-store, supermarket retailers should continue to invest in both to remain relevant and attract new customers.” 

Grocery retailers and food distributors can obtain a free copy of the full report or request a presentation of the results from the principals of Retail Feedback Group at [email protected]. The study is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,000 respondents who shopped in-store and/or online for food and groceries in the last 30 days.