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Grocery Shoppers Show Omnivorous Appetite for Omni-Channel

Both consumers and businesses adapted very quickly, as digital channels and payment methods became crucial to navigating the crisis.

The impact on the grocery sector

Given that grocery stores have been permitted to stay open in even the most severe lockdowns, it stands to reason that grocery shopping habits would change during this time. It was not just the most vulnerable who switched to purchasing groceries online, grocers have also seen a big change in overall consumer behavior.

A new ACI Worldwide and PYMNTS omni-channel grocery report details how the broader shift toward digital commerce has changed the way U.S. consumers shop, pay and acquire their groceries, as well as how grocers must adjust their digital offerings to meet consumers’ omni-channel preferences.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • 64% of consumers – 161 million individuals – are now using digital channels to purchase groceries
  • 23% – approximately 57 million grocery shoppers – are ordering groceries online to be delivered at home more than they were before the pandemic began
  • More than 25% – or 65 million consumers – would be willing to switch to a different grocer for easier access to touchless payment options

The charge to omni-channel shows no sign of slowing down

Even as restrictions eased during the summer of 2020, the move to digital did not recede. Our report shows that even more consumers have shifted to ordering their groceries online since March. In fact, nearly 16 percent of all grocery shoppers now say they are buying fewer groceries in-store and more online than prior to the pandemic—roughly four times more than the 3.9 percent who had shifted according to the benchmark survey back in March.

But it’s not just home delivery that has experienced a boost; 21 percent of U.S. consumers (53 million individuals) are now ordering online for curbside pickup more than they did before the onset of the pandemic, and 12 percent (30 million individuals) are now doing the same for in-store pickup.

The demand for in-store grocery shopping has not disappeared, however. The PYMNTS and ACI report shows that 78.6 percent of all grocery shoppers still prefer to buy at least some of their groceries in-store.

The results highlight the rise of a new kind of grocery shopper, one who prefers to use a combination of both brick-and-mortar and digital purchasing options.

Catering to the omni-channel grocery customer

Many of these trends are unlikely to revert in 2021. Millions of consumers and merchants are now used to digital payment methods and omni-channel journeys. Our research also showed that 35 percent of shoppers would be willing to switch grocers to access digital payment options—a clear indicator of consumer intentions and preferences for the longer term.

So, how can grocers ensure they provide consumers with shopping and payment experiences that match their evolving omni-channel purchasing habits?

Grocers’ biggest chance for gaining new customers is focusing on delivering digital payment options to the 64 percent of omni-channel consumers who regularly use a combination of both brick-and-mortar and digital channels to buy groceries.

But, it’s not just a customer acquisition opportunity—it’s a necessity for retaining customers, too. Grocers need to start by understanding what purchasing habits have changed among their own customer base, including how this varies by demographic group and even by product range.

Only then can each merchant assess what services they can provide to meet their current customers’ expectations, while also attracting new ones.

If you’re a grocer looking to understand how to adjust your digital offering to meet consumers’ omni-channel preferences, read the full report for detailed data and practical advice from our experts.

Manager, Product Management

Mike Yakel is a Principal Product Manager in ACI's Merchant Payments team. Mike has been with ACI for five years and has over 30 years experience in the payments industry including work at Visa, American Express, First Union Bank and several start-ups.