BARRINGTON, ILL. – Online grocery sales continued to perform well in the month of August, generating $8.6 billion — a 4.7% gain compared to 2020, according to a Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey fielded Aug. 29-30. Shoppers are taking increasing advantage of delivery and pickup, which saw a jump of 16% year-over-year, while ship-to-home orders fell 22%. 

“COVID’s resurgence has clearly contributed to the August sales gain,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click. “While retailers don’t control the external market forces, such as the new wave of COVID cases that continued through August, they can choose how effectively their business is positioned to respond to the current circumstances that are disrupting their customers’ lives.” 

The ongoing independent research initiative, created and conducted by Brick Meets Click and sponsored by Mercatus, showed that August’s overall sales increase was fueled entirely by an increase in the number of Americans going online to buy groceries, since both monthly order frequency and average spending per order declined versus the prior year. 

Compared to one year ago, the number of US households that bought groceries online in August, using any of the three receiving methods, jumped 25% to 69 million households. While monthly active users placed 3.7% less orders in compared to August 2020, that’s still 35% above online order averages in 2019. 

“The segment-level results revealed that the size of the ship-to-home MAU base dropped around 10% in August compared to last year, while pickup expanded nearly 50% and delivery grew nearly 30%,” Bishop said. “So, grocers need to monitor and measure the business at this level in order to get a more accurate picture of the online grocery market.” 

The share of online customers that used both a grocery service and a mass/discount service to buy groceries during August rebounded slightly from July 2021 to 26%. The current level of cross-shopping was 8% and 11% higher respectively versus Aug. 2020 and 2019. The ongoing shift in how and where customers shop online for groceries reinforces the need for conventional grocers to manage how well they’re executing compared to the mass discounters. 

“While COVID has transformed customer behavior, the fundamentals of acquisition, retention and repeat purchase still apply,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “The more successful grocers continue to dive deeper into their customer data to better understand what’s building and, equally important, what’s hindering stronger engagement. This insight-driven approach is enabling retailers to learn to what degree they need to improve elements of strategy and/or execution.”