A lot has changed since the U.S. began its initial lockdown in March 2020. Back then, the mere thought of going to the grocery store to stockpile items that were rapidly flying off shelves gave many shoppers heightened anxiety. Going to the store in person has been a stressful undertaking throughout the pandemic, even after statewide mask mandates and social distancing procedures were enacted.
Many of us turned to online ordering for grocery deliveries and pickups instead, and a new poll shows just how much that option has revolutionized our lives—and because of that, the surge in online grocery shopping is likely here to stay.
Instacart, one of the most popular online grocery platforms, released a new report that shows how the pandemic has transformed grocery shopping habits that will likely shape the future of online grocery shopping. In "Beyond the Cart: A Year of Essential Insights," data from Instacart and a survey conducted by The Harris Poll give us an in-depth look at the past year.
Who could have predicted that being able to order groceries online would go hand-in-hand with improving mental health? According to data centering around chats between Instacart shoppers and their customers, the use of happier emojis and customers thanking their shoppers increased by 300% after the initial shock surrounding the lockdown began to wane. Initially, customers were openly expressing their anxiety to their shoppers, but that began to decrease significantly as the "new normal" set in.
As for holiday shopping, many people were buying food items for smaller gatherings limited to just their households. Though 2020 brought forth an inarguably difficult holiday season, customers reported feeling "happy" that they had "something to look forward to" by planning out their online orders. Nearly half of Americans polled (49%) said they had begun planning for the holidays earlier in 2020 than they had in years past. And any parent out there knows the importance of planning ahead when it comes to holiday meals, no matter how big or small.
Oh, and shoutout to helpful partners and household members that aren't called "Mom!" The data also shows that nearly 3 in 4 Americans who were the primary grocery shopper for their households and families before the COVID-19 pandemic (74%) report that someone in their household has taken on additional grocery shopping responsibilities since the start of the pandemic.
Aside from showing that online grocery shopping generally improved customers' daily lives, the report also highlighted that sales surged for cleaning essentials and baking supplies (hello, sourdough starters), while sexual health-related items like pregnancy tests and condoms saw a major decrease during the year of isolation.
With the number of fully vaccinated individuals (those who are two weeks past their final vaccine dose) at 64 million and counting in the U.S. alone, summer and fall could look a lot more active this year compared to last year. But when it comes to online grocery shopping, that's one pandemic-related habit most families don't plan to break anytime soon, according to Instacart. (And also according to any busy parent, tbh.)
"Whether customers opt for 2-hours or less delivery, curbside pickup, or periodic trips to the store future of online grocery post-pandemic will be about swiftly adapting to meet consumers' expectations and deepening the role online grocery plays in their weekly routines."