Online grocery sales surged again in 2013, as we show in our new Online Grocery Retailing report.

But the market remains relatively small: online grocery sales accounted for only around 4% of all food retailers’ sales in 2013.

The online market size is disproportionately small

Relative to the proportion of shoppers saying they do all/most of their grocery shopping online, the online market size is disproportionately small: in 2013 nearly 20% of respondents told us they do all or most of their grocery shopping online. (This was an online survey but Internet usage levels are now at around 85% in the UK.)

Retailers lose impulse buys when shoppers move online

Mintel’s consumer data confirms that impulse purchases are lost when shoppers migrate from in-store to online grocery shopping.

A net one-quarter of all Internet grocery shoppers make fewer impulse purchases when buying online: while 9% say they make more impulse buys online, fully 34% say they make fewer impulse buys.

Added to this, our research found retailers lose out on sales of general merchandise when grocery shoppers move online. See our Online Grocery Retailing UK 2014 report, for full findings from our consumer survey.

What it means

  • Supermarkets must serve demand online, but there are questions about how much they should actively promote it as the main shopping channel for their existing in-store customers.
  • Retailers must strike a balance between capturing share of a growing market and protecting their interests: it looks to be more beneficial for them to follow customers online rather than lead them there.
  • And retailers must find ways to cultivate ‘serendipitous shopping’ online – driving up rates of casual browsing and so unplanned purchases among Internet shoppers.