U.S. grocery consumers have flocked online at a rate never seen previously because of the COVID pandemic, with time savings being the primary motivating factor rather than COVID-related safety concerns.

However, the store is far from over. Consumers are increasingly favoring a blended store-online grocery shopping approach. These are just a few of the key insights from a new consumer survey from PowerReviews, a leading provider of ratings and reviews and User-Generated Content solutions.

The PowerReviews Evolution of the Modern Grocery Shopper study draws on survey responses from 7,916 grocery shoppers across the country, surveyed in February 2021. The following are key findings from the survey:

More grocery shopping is happening online than ever before

  • 73% of consumers had purchased grocery items online within the most recent three months of being surveyed, compared to 17% when we asked the same question in 2017. This represents growth of 4.3 times.
  • 61% of consumers shop for groceries online more now than they did pre-COVID.
  • Top reasons for online shopping include time savings (59%), personal safety (49%) and avoiding impulse purchases (31%).
  • Ordering directly from a local grocery store (as opposed to online-only ordering services such as Instacart or Amazon Fresh) is the most popular way to shop for groceries online; 65% of consumers say they’ve done this.

Brick-and-mortar grocery is alive and well

  • 93% of consumers had made an in-store grocery purchase within the most recent three months of being surveyed.
  • 95% of consumers who shopped for groceries online have also made an in-store grocery purchase within the same time period.
  • Ratings and reviews positively impact the behavior of both online and in-store grocery shoppers
  • 82% of online grocery shoppers say they read reviews at least occasionally.
  • 83% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing product ratings and reviews when they’re considering a new product while shopping in a brick-and-mortar grocery store.
  • 78% of online grocery shoppers are more likely to purchase a new grocery item if customer reviews exist for that product. The figure is 64% among in-store shoppers.

“Although consumer shopping behaviors have shifted online over the past year at an unprecedented rate, grocery was one vertical where consumers always seemed to place more value on the store over online,” said Andrew Smith, vice president of marketing at PowerReviews, in a statement. “Our results show this is still the case to a certain extent, but shoppers are clearly more comfortable doing their grocery shopping online today than pre-COVID. The fact that consumer convenience is the biggest reason for this is indicative that this trend will continue long after the pandemic is behind us.

“Trends evident in other shopping verticals are mirrored in the grocery sector,” he continued. “Shoppers are relying more on validation from existing shoppers when making buying decisions in the form of user-generated content. Ratings and reviews are key to providing the buyer confidence necessary for grocery consumers to convert, according to our survey, whether shopping online or in-store.”