Is Digital Grocery Shopping In The UK Here To Stay?

Before the pandemic shook the world, the grocery sector revolved around regular trips to physical stores. Going to the supermarket and procuring weekly supplies was a vital segment of UK life.

The movement to adopt digital grocery shopping as a standard over the past decade was slow and insignificant. Online food procurement took only tiny steps and remained the peripheral channel.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, shoppers have taken a sharp digital turn. In 2020, the food industry saw an unprecedented surge in customers ordering their groceries online. Not many dared to roam supermarket aisles during peak times. Even when they did, the number of monthly trips got tremendously reduced.

Today, we can still see the impact on store shelves. Yet, figures gradually stabilise, and the volume of digital grocery shopping is facing minor losses. As people gain confidence to shop in-store again and restaurants reopen, what the new reality will bring remains uncertain.

This article will explore the trends of traditional vs. digital grocery shopping. We’ll also touch upon aggregate numbers that define the inclinations of shoppers around the UK.

Grocery Shopping In The UK Before The Pandemic

We still divide the shopping habits of people into before and after COVID-19. This distinction tells a lot about behavioural changes and how we altered the perception of food supply.

Before 2020, people weren’t spending so much money at the supermarket. Instead, they forked out in places where someone else prepared the food. Complex and lengthy cooking was not typical, and family meals even less. More so, rarely someone used to plan their grocery trips. It was more like, ‘I will decide later what I’ll make for dinner tonight.’ Then, we would stop on our way home and get the needed products. Hence, most purchases relied on the impulsive element and were less economical. Regular grocery shopping was also less organized and purposeful.

Elderly shoppers never turned to the Internet for food supplies. Digital grocery shopping was about 7% of the total sales. Of course, since free samples and special promotions were only available in-store, people were eager to walk through supermarket mazes. Local farmers stayed away from the Internet for a long time, too. Almost nobody ordered eggs, milk, and meat deliveries from local dairies and butchers. Locally grown produce kept its share on markets only and relied on physical sales.

COVID-19 Made Digital ‘The New Normal’’

The demand for home food deliveries during the pandemic spiked. Digital grocery shopping increased at an unprecedented rate and suddenly accounted for 16% of Britain’s ₤200 billion food retail market. The country saw one of the highest take-ups of online grocery.

Some experts believe the trend is here to stay and grow in the years to come. Yet, rival opinions prefer to call the new reality ‘a temporary normal’ that won’t last forever. CEOs of retail whales, like that of Lidl, seem to support this idea. Though not explicitly against digital grocery shopping, store managers reckon online orders will subside with the crisis. Sure enough, we could never go to the pre-COVID-19 level of 7%, but the figures won’t be as high as 16%. Moreover, some stores keep ignoring home deliveries and for a reason. They believe that online sales can’t be as lucrative as physical shopping. As discussed, shoppers make way more impulse buys in the stores, so owners generate more profit. Plus, they get to avoid transport and logistic expenses. The primary benefit of digital grocery shopping remains the limited contact with crowds. The fear of contracting the novel coronavirus has kept shoppers away from supermarket aisles. Many people also realised that, besides protecting their health, restrictions helped them save time and money.

Digital Grocery Shopping Around The UK

UK retailers took the challenge and started providing various products and services online. Most British consumers order from Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, and Amazon Fresh, among other retailers. However, Tesco remains the leading store brand in digital grocery shopping. One Statista survey showed that almost 45% of UK online shoppers had ordered from this merchandise retailer. With 15%, Sainsbury takes the second-largest share of the online retail market. Waitrose and Morrisons follow closely behind.

Latest Trends And Inclinations

About 45% of UK shoppers receive their online orders via home delivery. The same percentage of people use click-and-collect services, with more consumers selecting curb-side (28%) than in-store pickup (17%). Several food categories saw the largest increase in demand over the last year. These include alcohol (27.6%), home cooking (25%), frozen meat (19.1%), snacks (18.8%), and frozen confectionery (17.8%). The reason for these tendencies is that shoppers spend more time at home. So, they need to replace food and beverages previously consumed in restaurants and pubs. Also, since more people work and study remotely, they prepare their work and school lunches at home.

When asked in 2021 if they would carry on digital grocery shopping after COVID-19, the responses weren’t surprising at all. Over a third of UK shoppers said they would, but not as frequently as before. Less than a fifth of UK consumers had no intention of procuring post-pandemic groceries on the web.

Elly Is Helping With Digital Transition Of UK Grocery Shops

Digital grocery shopping offers several benefits for retailers, including more opportunities for revenue and a better understanding of their customers. Thanks to the innovative solutions of Elly, businesses can now reap the benefits of the online market.

Elly enables various payment means, such as credit and debit cards, digital wallets, and crypto on one device. More so, companies can take advantage of lower fee transactions both online and in-store. Besides fast payment processing, Elly offers additional services like inventory and employee management. Plus, you can opt for cash register software and ads to boost your revenue streams. Whatever your preferences, our expert team is always at your disposal to tailor the perfect combo.