Coronavirus - The Ultimate Test Of Online Grocery
Updated: Jun 11
If you've been in a supermarket recently, you've probably noticed a few empty shelves. From toilet paper to pasta, people have been stocking up on essentials to get them through potential Covid-19 self-isolation. These issues are mirrored online, where even the free-range chicken section of my local supermarket's online aisles was decimated. Still, online grocery retailers have an important part to play at a time like this.
The coronavirus is the ultimate test for online grocery, particularly in less mature markets where online grocery shopping hasn't quite gone mainstream. Grocery retailers have envisaged and begun to plan for a world where online grocery is adopted by the majority, and have already experienced heavy demand at times. Online grocery has previously seen demand grow during the holidays or the Superbowl, for example, when bulk-buying becomes the norm. It's easy to plan for these events. It's not so easy to plan for a sudden period of mass-isolation where demand for online grocery goes through the roof.
The good news is that a recent surge in demand in countries where Covid-19 has not yet forced mass-isolation has given grocery retailers space to plan for a worst-case scenario that may not be realised. In parts of the U.K., customers are reporting that delivery slots are unavailable for up to a week. In Australia, supermarkets have reached grocery delivery capacity and are promoting click-and-collect as an alternative. Expanding delivery slots and putting extra vans on the roads are obvious options that should be explored, but supermarkets in the U.K. are also asking for competition rules to be relaxed to enable cooperation between retailers in order to keep up with demand.
In the past month, 21% of U.S. consumers have purchased perishable, edible groceries online compared with 18% at the same time last year. Depending on how the coronavirus situation develops, this is likely to rise significantly. The silver lining in all this is that many who are new to online grocery have praised the convenience of the process. A good experience now could mean an increase in online grocery loyalty once Covid-19 is no longer a concern. For now, grocery retailers are fulfilling a crucial role in protecting communities through online grocery.