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How European Consumers Will Shop for Groceries in the Future

Food and Beverages | Friday, December 17, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic proceeds, early evidence indicates that some—but not all—of Europe's new grocery shopping habits will persist.

FREMONT, CA: As lockdowns throughout markets began in the spring of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, EU-5 consumers resorted to online grocery shopping due to mobility constraints and fears about exposure to other individuals in enclosed public settings. Grocery sales on the internet have soared.

In April, demand for online groceries in Italy more than doubled.

Tesco's online grocery business in the United Kingdom increased to 16 percent of total country sales in the first quarter of 2020, up from roughly 9 percent.  Ocado Retail, an online supermarket, reported a tenfold rise in demand and site traffic up to 100 times that of pre-pandemic levels in April. And online growth might have been even higher, as consumer demand for online ordering has consistently outstripped available supply during the crisis—and continues to do so in the majority of countries today.

Approximately 15 percent of EU-5 consumers questioned reported shopping for groceries via a website they had never used before throughout the epidemic. Over half of those consumers say they intend to continue shopping at their newly discovered site for at least some of their grocery needs. Additionally, 13 percent of them have changed grocery stores to take advantage of home delivery or click-and-collect options, both of which are available through online ordering.

However, not everyone has had a positive experience shopping for groceries online. The UK respondents had the most favorable experiences with online grocery ordering and delivery, with 33 percent of home-delivery customers expressing "extreme satisfaction" and only 5 percent expressing "strongly dissatisfaction." The United Kingdom has Europe's most developed online grocery market, with a projected overall penetration of 6.5 to 6.9 percent in 2020 (vs. 5.0 percent in France, 1.7 percent in Spain, 1.5 percent in Germany, and 0.7 percent in Italy), so, unsurprisingly, UK grocers were better equipped to respond to surges in online demand. Other supermarkets lacked the infrastructure necessary to service the spike in online consumers, and our data demonstrate the association between customer satisfaction and the ability to meet demand. In Italy, France, and Germany, just 13–16 percent of respondents are extremely satisfied with their online grocery shopping experience.

Additionally, some customers who are quite delighted with their online shopping experiences indicate that they consider online grocery buying a temporary measure and intend to return to brick-and-mortar locations.

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