Oh, what hath a pandemic wrought? Online grocery sales this past summer increased five to six times over the previous year. Instacart has exploded (as has its valuation, which now stands at over $17 billion), and some experts now predict that online grocery sales will reach $250 billion by 2025.
However, figures like these only tell part of the story.
They gloss over the bigger picture of what the past six months mean for the future. Yes, grocery has changed, but the changes are much subtler and far more sublime than one might imagine.
Online grocery delivery has undoubtedly grown in importance, but, as recent research from Takeoff suggests, that importance should not be confused with what the American grocery business has always been about—the relationship between price and convenience. Online delivery is certainly one variable in this equation, but, if the pandemic has revealed anything, it is that the physical attributes of omnichannel grocery retailing, including grocery automation, may be just as important, if not more so, than delivery.
While consumers have and will always go to great lengths to save time and money, Takeoff’s latest research indicates that no grocer (or retailer for that matter) should ever assume that fast delivery is all that matters.
The real road to salvation is far more nuanced and intuitive, regardless of what pandemic-laced media jargon or what outrageous VC-backed investments may try to fool one into believing.