Survey at a Glance:
The PowerReviews Meeting Grocery and CPG Shopper Digital Expectations in the Post Pandemic Era study is based on survey responses from 11,162 grocery shoppers across the United States in March 2022 (and is an update of our 2021 study, The Evolution of the Modern Grocery Shopper). Here’s a snapshot of our key findings.
- 71% of consumers have made an online grocery or CPG purchase within the most recent three month period (compared to 73% a year ago and 17% in 2017).
- 72% say they shop online for groceries more now than they did pre-Covid.
- For 57% of consumers, online grocery spending has increased in the past 12 months.
- Top reasons for online grocery shopping include time savings (66%), avoiding impulse purchases that are common in-store (37%) and personal safety (34%).
- Pickup or delivery from a traditional grocery or big box store remains the most popular online grocery shopping option; 68% of consumers have done this.
- 95% of consumers have purchased grocery or CPG items from a brick-and-mortar store within the most recent three month period.
- Nearly all online grocery shoppers (97%) have also shopped in-store for groceries or CPG items within the most recent three months.
- 90% of online grocery shoppers read ratings and reviews at least occasionally. This is up from 82% last year.
- Top categories for which online grocery shoppers want to access reviews include personal care items (79%), home care items (72%), non-perishable packaged foods (49%), frozen foods (41%) and soft drinks (37%), among others.
- 81% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing ratings and reviews while in a brick-and-mortar grocery store.
- 92% of shoppers are open to purchasing products they’ve never tried before, up from 83% last year.
- 83% of those purchasing grocery and CPG products online say they’re more likely to purchase a product they’ve never tried before if there are reviews from other customers.
- When shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, 58% of consumers are more likely to purchase an unfamiliar grocery or CPG item if they’re able to read reviews first.
The Pandemic Has Had a Lasting Impact on The Way We Shop for Groceries
When the pandemic first hit and stay-at-home orders were put in place, the shopping habits of many consumers quickly shifted. Namely, they cut back on trips to brick-and-mortar stores and instead flocked online to purchase what they needed – including groceries.
As a result, online grocery, a category that has historically trailed behind other ecommerce categories, experienced explosive growth. According to eMarketer, in 2020, grocery ecommerce grew 54% year-over-year. And our own research early last year found that 73% of consumers had made a grocery or CPG purchase online, up from 17% in 2017.
Today, we’re more than two years into the pandemic. Though Covid isn’t over, vaccines are now widely available. And many consumers have settled into their “new normal.”
But have grocery shopping behaviors regressed back to pre-pandemic times? Or have some of those new habits stuck?
Recently, we surveyed 11,162 U.S. consumers to understand where they’re shopping for groceries, how they’re navigating the purchase journey across channels, and what information they’re using to make informed purchase journeys.
In this report, we’ll explore the key findings from this survey. We’ll also discuss how grocery and CPG shopping behaviors and expectations vary based on demographics, as well as how habits have evolved in the past year since we last fielded a similar survey.
Consumers have many options when it comes to purchasing grocery and CPG items. Understanding the habits and expectations of these shoppers can empower you to refine your strategy to attract and convert more of them – wherever they opt to spend their grocery and CPG budgets.
Who We Surveyed
This report is based on a survey conducted in March 2022 of 11,162 US consumers. Here’s a closer look at who we surveyed.
US Census Region
Type of Geographical Location
Overall (Grocery and Non-Grocery) Monthly Online Spend for Household
Where Consumers Shop for Groceries & CPG Items (and How Often They Do So)
These days, consumers have nearly endless options when they’re shopping for just about any product category – including groceries and CPG.
Are the majority of consumers browsing and buying grocery and CPG products online? Or are they navigating the aisles of physical store locations to get what they need?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Online Grocery Growth Has Leveled Off
In the past, consumers remained reluctant to shop for groceries online. But when the pandemic initially hit, more consumers than ever before gave online grocery shopping a try. In 2021, 73% of the consumers we surveyed said they’d made an online grocery purchase in the past three months – compared with 17% who said this was the case in 2017.
Today, many consumers continue to shop online for groceries. In fact, 71% of consumers have made an online grocery purchase in the past three months. While this is down slightly from last year, it’s proof positive that online grocery shopping isn’t going away.
Prevalence of Online Grocery Shopping Varies Based on Many Factors
The popularity of shopping for groceries online depends on many factors. Our survey shed light on three: age, geographical location and income.
Interestly, Boomers are the generation least likely to shop online for groceries; 53% do so. Millennials, on the other hand, are the group most likely to shop for groceries online. 77% do so.
In terms of geography, large city dwellers are the group most likely to purchase groceries online, with 77% doing so. In comparison, 65% of those in small cities and towns with a population below 50,000 shop online for groceries. This makes sense, as there are typically more options for consumers living in larger cities.
In addition, higher income is correlated with an increased likelihood of online grocery shopping. 61% of shoppers who make $25,000 or less shop online for groceries, compared to 76% of those making $100,000 or more. A possible explanation is that online grocery shopping can come with additional costs, such as item markups and delivery charges. And those with tight budgets can’t afford those additional expenses. Or they perhaps believe they may be more able to shop cost efficiently in person.
Covid Has Had Long-Term Impact on Where Consumers Shop
It’s no secret that Covid has had an impact on where many consumers opt to shop for groceries. This year, 62% of consumers indicate they shop online for groceries more now than they did pre-Covid. Last year, 61% of consumers said this was the case.
Why Consumers Shop Online for Groceries
Many consumers shop online for groceries. What are their motivations for doing so? The top reason is that it saves time; 66% indicate this is a reason they choose to purchase groceries online.
Of note and possibly unsurprising, personal safety seems to be less of a concern now.
Consumers Still Frequent Brick-and-Mortar Establishments
A large portion of consumers purchase grocery and CPG products online. Does this mean grocery stores have become ghost towns?
Nearly all (95%) of consumers have purchased a grocery or CPG product in a brick-and-mortar store within the last three months. This is up slightly from 2021, when 93% shopped in-store for groceries.
When it comes to grocery shopping, it’s not a case of online versus in-store shopping. That’s because most consumers are doing both. In fact, 97% of those who shop online for groceries also shopped in-store during the same time period.
Grocery and CPG brands and retailers must be equipped to reach consumers – and meet their expectations – regardless of whether they shop online, in-store, or, most commonly, some combination of the two.
How Often Consumers Shop For Groceries Across all Channels
We have a clear idea of where consumers are shopping for groceries. But how often are they doing so? The most common frequency is a few times per week.
How Consumers Browse and Buy Groceries and CPG Products Online
The vast majority of consumers are purchasing at least a portion of their groceries and CPG items online. Let’s take a closer look at how frequently these consumers shop online, how they’re navigating the purchase journey, and where they’re most frequently shopping.
A Growing Portion of the Grocery Budget is Spent Online
We know the vast majority of consumers are doing a combination of online and in-store grocery shopping. But for many, a growing portion of the grocery budget is spent online.
Over half (57%) say the proportion of their grocery spend that occurs online has increased in the last 12 months. A third (32%) indicate their online grocery spending has stayed the same, and only 11% claim it’s decreased.
Precisely how much are shoppers spending online on grocery and CPG items each month?
The largest portion of shoppers – 49% – spend $250 or less online each month on groceries and CPG items. And 22% spend between $251 and $500.
Consumers Shop for Groceries Online Less Frequently Than Average
We know the largest portion of shoppers (45%) shop for groceries across all channels (both online and in-store) a few times per week, and 42% do so once per week. Are consumers shopping online at the same frequency?
In general, consumers are shopping online less frequently. The largest portion (28%) of consumers shop for groceries online monthly, and 25% do so once per week.
However, 57% say they’re spending more online than they did 12 months ago. A likely explanation is that they’re placing larger, less frequent orders – perhaps loading up on shelf-stable goods, such as pantry items and CPG products.
Pickup or Delivery from a Traditional Grocery or Big Box Store Remains the Most Popular Option
We know how frequently consumers are shopping online for groceries – and how much they’re spending. But where exactly are they going to spend their online grocery shopping dollars?
Pickup or delivery from a traditional grocery or big box store is the most popular option, as was the case last year. 68% of shoppers have taken advantage of this service, compared to 65% in 2021.
Shoppers Add Many Types of Grocery Items to Their Online Shopping Baskets
Last year when we asked grocery shoppers what types of products they typically purchase online, non-perishable foods topped the list. This year, this category remains at the top of the list; it’s tied with personal care CPG items, such as soap, shampoo, and body wash.
However, it seems no grocery categories are off bets from online shoppers – including beverages, fresh food, and frozen items.
Many are Willing to Try New Brands and Products
As mentioned earlier, one of the top reasons consumers shop for groceries online is that it helps them avoid impulse purchases that often happen in-store. So, are most online shoppers sticking to their tried and true products? Or are they open to trying new options – sight unseen?
The vast majority – 92% – indicate they’re open to buying products they’ve never tried before, up from 83% last year.
Consistent with last year’s results, Boomers are the group least likely to be open to buying new products, while Gen Z shoppers are the most likely.
In addition, consumers with higher incomes are more willing to try new products than their lower-earning counterparts. This makes sense, as they likely have more disposable income – and thus the risk is lower if they don’t like a product.
Also of note, 25% of shoppers say they’re more open to buying a new grocery or CPG product they’ve never tried before when shopping online than they would be when shopping in-store. This is up slightly from 21% last year. Over half (55%) say they’re as open to buying a new (to them) grocery or CPG product when shopping online as they are when shopping in-store.
Those shopping for groceries online don’t need to see a new (to them) product in person to be willing to try it. Later on in this report, we’ll explore what gives these shoppers the confidence to buy unknown grocery products, sight unseen.
The Impact of Reviews on Online Grocery and CPG Shopping
A large (and growing) portion of consumers turn to reviews to make informed purchase decisions. But do consumers read reviews when shopping for grocery and CPG products? And does the presence of this content have any impact on purchase likelihood?
Online Grocery Shoppers Frequently Consult Ratings and Reviews
The vast majority of online grocery shoppers – 90% – read ratings and reviews at least occasionally, up significantly from 82% last year.
Clearly, reviews are becoming increasingly important for grocery and CPG shoppers.
As expected, younger shoppers consult reviews more frequently when shopping online for grocery and CPG items. Notably, 35% of Gen Z shoppers say they always read ratings and reviews when purchasing grocery items online, compared to 15% of Gen X’ers and 13% of Boomers. In addition, a mere 5% of Gen Z’ers indicate they never read reviews when shopping online for groceries and CPG items, compared to 13% of Boomers.
Also of note, those with higher overall monthly online spending consult reviews more frequently than those who spend less online each month. 21% of those who spend $2,001+ and 25% of those who spend $1,000-$2,000 always consult reviews. In comparison, 15% of those who spend $1-$250 always consult reviews when shopping for groceries online.
Many Online Grocery Services Fail to Meet Shopper Expectations
While 90% of consumers read reviews when shopping online for groceries, less than half (47%) can confidently say there are reviews available for the online grocery service they primarily use.
If you aren’t providing reviews, shoppers must look elsewhere for this content. And when they do, they’re likely to get distracted – and spend their grocery and CPG dollars elsewhere.
Online Grocery Shoppers Value Various UGC Elements
Many online grocery shoppers consult ratings and reviews and other types of user-generated content (UGC). What elements of UGC content do shoppers value most?
The greatest portion of shoppers (66%) pay attention to average star rating, followed closely by customer opinions on specific extra details relevant to the product (64%) – for example, freshness of product or packaging of dry food.
Over half (55%) of shoppers pay attention to the quantity of reviews, and 49% take note of customer questions and answers on the page. A significant portion of online shoppers pay attention to customer-submitted imagery (38%) and customer-submitted videos (17%).
Be sure you’re generating a steady stream of UGC for your grocery products, including reviews, Q&A, photos, and videos. Consumers pay attention to it – and its presence can positively impact purchase behavior.
Reviews Attract Customers – and Increase Click Through
When browsing for grocery and CPG products online, consumers don’t typically navigate directly to a product page. Instead, they start their search on a search engine or navigate to a grocery service or retailer’s homepage.
Reviews influence where they go from there. Half of online grocery shoppers say they’re more likely to click through to a product page from a search engine or a grocery service’s home page if there are ratings and reviews highlighted in those locations, up slightly from 47% last year.
Younger shoppers are even more likely to be enticed to click through by the presence of reviews. 68% of Gen Z’ers and 56% of Millennials are more likely to click through to a product page (from a search engine or home page) if there are reviews present.
Be sure to include reviews on your home page, category pages, search engine ads, and other digital advertisements. It’s a surefire way to increase clickthrough.
Reviews Give Online Grocery Shoppers Confidence to Try Unfamiliar Brands and Products
Nearly all grocery shoppers (92%) are willing to try grocery and CPG products they’ve never tried before when shopping online. But there’s always risk involved with purchasing a product you don’t have experience with – especially when you can’t touch and see the product.
Reviews can help shoppers overcome that risk.
83% of online grocery shoppers indicate they’re more likely to purchase a grocery item they’ve never purchased before if there are customer reviews for that product, up from 78% in 2021.
The presence of reviews is even more likely to boost purchase likelihood among younger shoppers. 93% of Gen Z’ers and 85% of Millennials say they’re more likely to purchase an unknown grocery or CPG item if there are reviews available for it.
Reviews can give shoppers the confidence they need to try a new brand or product. Be sure to generate plenty of reviews across your product catalog – especially for new products and lesser known brands.
Giving Online Grocery and CPG Shoppers the Type of Reviews They Want, Where They Want Them
There was a time that consumers had no choice but to head to the grocery store to pick up food, drinks, home care, and personal care items. But today, that’s no longer the case. Instead, grocery shoppers have more options than ever before.
In a competitive market, brands and retailers must work extra hard to meet the needs of online shoppers. One way of doing this is to provide grocery shoppers with reviews, which they so clearly are seeking out.
But what types of grocery and CPG products do consumers want to find reviews for? And where do they want to find this content?
Online Shoppers are Hungry for Reviews Across Categories
We know 90% of consumers read product reviews when shopping online for grocery and CPG items. But are there categories for which this content is particularly important?
Again this year, two categories rise about the rest. 79% of consumers want to access product reviews for personal care items (think soap, shampoo and body wash) and 72% want to access this content for home care items (think detergent and cleaners).
However, a significant portion of online shoppers want to be able to find ratings and reviews for each of the types of grocery and CPG items we asked about. As such, it’s imperative to collect reviews across all grocery and CPG products.
Online Grocery Shoppers Don’t Want to Look Hard to Find Reviews
Consumers want to be able to find reviews for many different types of grocery products. And they don’t want to have to go searching for this content.
As was the case last year, the majority of shoppers (79%) want to access product reviews directly on the website or app they purchase from. Four in ten shoppers want to be able to find reviews for products they’re considering on Amazon, while 27% want to find this content via a search engine.
How Consumers Navigate the Aisles of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery Stores
Today, most consumers spend a portion of their grocery and CPG budget online. However, they’re certainly not abandoning stores altogether.
As we mentioned earlier, a whopping 95% of consumers have made a grocery or CPG purchase in a brick-and-mortar store within the most recent three months.
However, there’s no doubt we’re seeing some significant shifts in how consumers shop in grocery stores – and what criteria they’re using to assess potential purchases.
Consumers Rely on Mobile Phones to Aid In-Store Grocery Shopping
These days, consumers don’t go anywhere without their phones. So it’s not surprising that 89% of consumers say they use their mobile phone in grocery stores to help them shop, up slightly from 87% in 2021.
In-Store Grocery Shoppers Use Their Mobile Phones for Many Activities
How are consumers using their mobile phones to aid in their in-store shopping? 68% use their mobile phone to find or redeem coupons, making it the most popular activity. In-store grocery shoppers also use their mobile phones to review shopping lists (47%), read product ratings and reviews (46%) and search for competitor prices (45%).
Of note, consumers are significantly more likely to use their phone in-store to read ratings and reviews and search for competitor prices this year than they were in 2021. This reflects the growing importance of reviews, as well as increased price sensitivity, given increasing inflation. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (reported in Grocery Dive), food-at-home prices grew 8.6% during the past year, which is the fastest pace of growth since 1981.
The Impact of Reviews on In-Store Grocery Shopping Behavior
Previous research found that over half of consumers read reviews when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
Our most recent research found that grocery shoppers are no exception. They want to be able to find reviews, and the presence of this content positively impacts their purchase behavior.
Most In-Store Grocery Shoppers Want Reviews for Unfamiliar Products
Consumers may not typically consult reviews when buying familiar grocery products. However, this content can help them learn more about products that are new to them.
81% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing product ratings and reviews while shopping in a grocery store; 31% are very interested.
Of note, Gen Z shoppers are the generation most likely to be very interested in accessing product ratings and reviews when considering a new (or new to them) product in a grocery store.
But make no mistake: a significant portion of consumers across all generations are interested in accessing reviews for new grocery and CPG products they’re considering while shopping in-store. Make sure they can find what they’re looking for.
The Presence of Reviews Boosts Purchase Likelihood In-Store
There’s risk involved with straying away from tried-and-true products. But as it turns out, the presence of reviews can help in-store shoppers overcome that risk.
When shopping in a brick-and-mortar grocery store, over half (58%) of consumers are more likely to purchase a grocery item they’ve never bought before if they’re able to read customer reviews first.
When considering new products, younger in-store shoppers are even more likely to be swayed by reviews. 78% of Gen Z’ers and 63% of Millennials say they’re more likely to purchase a new (to them) product while shopping in a grocery store if there are reviews available for the product in question, compared to 54% of Gen X’ers and 49% of Boomers.
Where In-Store Grocery Shoppers Want to Access Ratings and Reviews
When considering a new (or new to them) product in a grocery store, the majority of consumers are interested in accessing ratings and reviews. And this content can positively impact the likelihood they’ll purchase the product in question.
But where do in-store grocery shoppers want to access this content?
As was the case last year, the largest portion of shoppers (49% both this year and last) want to be able to access ratings and reviews through the store’s mobile app.
However, many shoppers also want to be able to find ratings and reviews in the store itself – including shelf tags, product packaging, and store displays.
5 Key Takeaways for Grocery Brands and Retailers
Grocery shopping sure looks a lot different than it did in early 2020. Brands and retailers must adapt their approaches to attract and convert grocery and CPG shoppers, whether they’re shopping online, in-store, or some combination of the two.
Here are our five key takeaways from our latest survey.
Some expected consumers to return to their pre-Covid shopping habits once vaccines were widely available. But that hasn’t been the case.
Today, 71% of consumers have purchased grocery or CPG products online in the most recent three months, driven by motivations including time savings, less likelihood of impulse purchases, and safety, among others. And over half say the portion of their grocery and CPG budget that’s spent online has increased in the last 12 months.
Online grocery and CPG shoppers have nearly endless options. You must ensure you have a strong strategy in place to attract these consumers.
Though consumers are embracing the convenience of browsing and buying groceries online, that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar grocery is dead.
95% of those we surveyed have made a grocery or CPG purchase in a brick-and-mortar store in the most recent 90 days. And 97% of online grocery shoppers also shop in-store.
While it makes sense to invest in digital, don’t do so at the peril of your brick-and-mortar locations. Instead, make it a priority to deliver winning, seamless experiences across all channels.
Grocery and CPG shoppers leverage ratings and reviews to make informed purchase decisions, wherever they shop.
90% of online grocery shoppers read ratings and reviews at least occasionally. And 81% of in-store grocery shoppers are at least somewhat interested in being able to access this content.
Make it a priority to collect a high volume of reviews across all of your grocery and CPG products.
And then once collected, be sure to prominently display this content where both online and in-store shoppers can find it. Of course, this means showcasing reviews on your website and mobile app. But in addition, look for opportunities to enhance in-store signage, packaging, and other marketing initiatives with star ratings and review content.
Most consumers don’t consult reviews for grocery and CPG items they habitually purchase – such as diapers or cereal. However, most consumers are open to trying new grocery brands and products. And the availability of reviews can positively impact whether or not they follow through with a purchase.
83% of consumers are more likely to purchase an unknown grocery or CPG item online if there are reviews for it. And 58% of consumers say this is the case when they’re shopping in-store.
While it’s important to generate reviews across your entire catalog, be sure to focus on those new or recently released brands and products. Product sampling is a great way to quickly generate a high volume of reviews prior to launching a new product – or for lesser known brands and products in need of additional review coverage.
Clearly, reviews are an important resource for both online and in-store grocery and CPG shoppers. If you’re looking to grow market share, you’ve got to make it a priority to collect and display more of this content so consumers can find it, wherever they shop.
When you’re developing your collecting and display strategies, it’s great to start with best practices – especially those that are specific to your industry. However, every business is different, and what works for one might not work for all.
With that in mind, you must consistently measure the performance of your UGC programs. When you do, you’ll shed light on opportunities to improve your collection and display efforts – and start more effectively attracting and converting grocery and CPG shoppers.