What’s the Future of Online Grocery Shopping?

The traditional wisdom has been that epidemics will bring about a comprehensive and lasting change in American habits from analog to digital. But what about that most basic habit – grocery shopping?

Americans spend almost more on groceries than anything else, and how we buy food is considered the finger of the wind to evaluate the future of our shopping habits. Right now, the direction … is unclear.

I’m looking for data on online grocery shopping in the US, and I would politely say I don’t have a clear picture.

Americans are certainly buying more groceries online than we are in 2019, but in some notable categories, such as fresh and frozen foods, online sales growth is much slower than before the virus began to spread widely in the U.S. In the last few months, online grocery sales have dropped or barely decreased over the past year.

It is inevitable that digital sales will continue to grow as part of US spending, including groceries. But digital transformation is often not a direct march up the mountain, but more of an uneven climb, up, down and sideways. And grocery shopping has been particularly on the jagged route.

My wish-seeking analysis is that Americans have not raised their heads to buy bananas on the Internet, but we have not denied it.

With e-commerce losing figures for face-to-face shopping last year, the muddy picture of online grocery shows that human behavior can be too complex for a simple explanation.

This is where things come in: Before 2020, Americans weren’t so jazz about delivering groceries to our doors. Almost all US groceries are purchased in stores, according to preference or need.

Online grocery purchases have risen from perhaps 3 or 4 percent of total sales in 2019 to about 7 to 15 percent. (Analysts told me that about $ 1 trillion US grocery sales data should be taken with cereals. Salt.)

Delivery of groceries to our doorsteps is still relatively low, but ordering groceries online for pickup at the store was caught and stuck during the epidemic. Maybe.

However, online ordering is lagging behind, and most Americans are still buying groceries in the old fashioned way. It is difficult to assess what and how much the online-grocery habit will stick.

A report by Forrester and IRI found that in many categories of products purchased in supermarkets, online growth was lower than in January 2020. Online grocery sales have been growing disproportionately recently, according to a closely watched shopper survey by research firm Brix Meets Clicks.

It is not surprising that online grocery sales did not grow so fast in 2020 when we were shopping for internet panic. But since sales are still relatively low, it’s not a sign of passionate digital love that numbers don’t have. Growing rapidly or continuously. (Even rising prices of everything makes it difficult to compare 2022 purchases with 2019.)

Even experts can’t say with certainty how quickly Americans will embrace the online-grocery habit or how much of our shopping could be virtually exhausted. “The numbers are too small to draw a lasting conclusion,” said Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Advertising Giant Publications.

He told me that in his conversations with industry leaders, big supermarket chains were betting that online grocery shopping would be a big part of our lives but everyone was constantly guessing their beliefs.

At least for now, supermarkets including Walmart, Target and Kroger are investing in expanding options for people to choose the groceries they buy online. It’s the go-to method for Americans to buy digital groceries.

Larger supermarkets are also redesigning stores to make it easier for their staff to assemble online orders, and some have even invested in more automated mini warehouses, such as Amazon.

Goldberg said grocery retailers don’t want to be left behind when and where most of our purchases are made on the Internet. But they are also anxious, partly because online sales are already adding costs to the for-profit sector.

Even the relatively low volume of online grocery shopping has now seriously changed the experiences of many shoppers, millions of Americans who work in grocery stores and those restless sellers.

However, the difficulty in analyzing the present and future of our online-groceries demands modesty regarding the sustainability of our adaptation to coronavirus. When people make bold statements about what will happen in shopping, work or the economy, try to remember that no one knows for sure.

Maybe in your own life, you’re not sure how you want to buy groceries. I look forward to hearing from you at ontech@nytimes.com. Please put “groceries” in the subject line.


aAre you delivering restaurant meals or groceries? Brian X ChenConsumer technical columnist for The New York Times suggests ways to evaluate the true value of your order, including fees that are sometimes not explicitly disclosed.

(Please note that delivery app bills may vary depending on where you live. Some US cities require that the delivery app itemize their fees.)

Have you ever wondered why it costs $ 50 to get a papier mach પિ pizza delivery through DoorDash or why that Instacart bill seems so high from an astronomical point of view? It is not just because inflation has pushed up food prices. Online delivery applications and the restaurants that rely on them also find ways to pay a fee on your order which is not always transparent.

Consider the order I placed for the delivery of two subway sandwiches. In the study I did for the previous column, Uber Eats charged me $ 25.25, which included meal costs, service fees, delivery charges, and surcharges for placing small orders – 91 percent markup compared to buying those sandwiches in person.

In a separate experiment, I noticed that some restaurants charge more for certain menu items when you order through delivery apps. The family feast value meal at Panda Express costs $ 39 per restaurant, but the same item costs $ 47.10 if you order it through DoorDash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. That was before paying the extra service fee. Restaurants sometimes increase the price of menus to cover the commissions they pay for delivery applications.

The next time you decide whether or not to place a delivery order, be aware of the costs involved. Take a closer look at the bill and compare the price of the items in the app with the price of those menu items on the restaurant’s website or grocery store.

The true cost of using a delivery app can force you to use the phone to order a takeout and pick up dinner yourself or you can decide if the delivery is right for you. Either way, you’ll be better informed.

  • The battle for face-scanning technology is a proven ground: My colleague Kashmir Hill reports that Clearview AI’s software, which promises to identify people from their facial images, has been used to instruct their families to identify soldiers killed in the Ukraine war. But she also notes that face recognition companies can take advantage of the crisis as a sales opportunity, and that mistakes in identifying people can have fatal consequences on the battlefield.

  • Problems for that, uh, eye kiki-scanning company. It sounds strange, but a start-up called Worldcoin promised to give people cryptocurrencies in low-income countries and scanned their eyes to make sure no one was being paid more than once. BuzzFeed News found that some people were angry that they had a voucher for a currency that did not yet exist.

  • How does e-commerce work on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean? In French Polynesia, locals have created their own online shopping service relying on planes, cargo ships, scooters and the Facebook Messenger app, reports from the rest of the world.

Please meet The squirrel that loves all bagels.


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