Groceries Go Digital: How The Pandemic Turned The Nation into Online Shoppers

New findings show significant shifts in behaviour within online grocery sector

The How Britain Shops Online report reveals:

  • 77%* of people now do at least some of their grocery shopping online, compared to 61% a year ago

  • 60% of people shop for groceries online more frequently since the pandemic, with 41% of people citing convenience as the reason and one in five people saying that they hadn’t considered it before Covid-19

  • The most marked increase in online grocery shopping is within the over-55 age group, where regular online shoppers have nearly trebled (8% in 2019 to 23% in 2020)

Released on Thursday (20th August), the report ‘How Britain Shops Online: Food and Drink Edition’ is based on comprehensive new OnePoll consumer research of people across Britain – not just Waitrose shoppers.  This data is supported by insight from Waitrose e-Commerce experts, online search trends and millions of purchases on

James Bailey, Waitrose & Partners Executive Director, says:

“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there are few retailers that wouldn’t have predicted the continued growth of e-commerce relative to physical shops. But what would have previously been a gradual upward climb in demand has – with the outbreak of Covid-19  – turned into a trajectory more reminiscent of scaling Everest. One in four of us now do a grocery shop online at least once a week – double the amount in 2019. Because online shopping quickly becomes habitual – these changes are irreversible.”

Investing in the Future

At its recent strategic review update, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership Sharon White spoke of the importance of building on the strength of the Waitrose brand by making it easier and more convenient for customers to shop whenever and however they want. The retailer is mid-way through £100m investment in, which it predicts will account for 20% of its total business, up from 5% pre-Covid. Having accelerated its online expansion rapidly in recent months, is on track to treble its size to become a £1bn business in its own right by the end of the year and the retailer has plans to increase order capacity to 250,000 weekly slots.

The supermarket has not rested on its laurels in the new product design department either; its revamped food innovation centre at its Bracknell headquarters has seen the recent development of 5,000 new or reformulated products. This equates to nearly a third of the 14,000-17,000 own-label products sold under its well-known brands including Duchy Organic, essential Waitrose and Waitrose No.1.

The report’s key findings include:

Generation Gap

  • Last year, less than half of over-55s (47%) did some of their food shopping online. This has since increased to 74%

  • There has also been a big shift in the shopping behaviours of 35-44 year-olds. 32% now do at least one online shop each week, compared to 16% in 2019

Wine Online

  • 17% of people have been buying more wine online during lockdown, and orders on Waitrose Cellar have increased by 238%

  • 22% of people like the fact they didn’t have to carry the wine themselves and 23% say it’s due to there being a wider selection of wine online, in comparison to in store

Conscious Consumers

  • 44% of people actively seek out products online with less packaging, and searches for the food waste page on up 94% compared to last year

  • When shopping online, 27% of people seek out British products

Speedy Service

  • There has been a huge increase in customer demand for delivery ‘whenever and however’. The Waitrose Rapid service, which allows customers to purchase up to 25 items for delivery within two hours – currently has over 23,000 customers – a three-fold increase compared to before the pandemic

The Future of Online Shopping

  • 40% of people say they’ll shop for groceries online more in the long term than pre-Covid-19

  • 19% of people say they’ll use a wider variety of online services (including fast delivery and Click & Collect) post-lockdown

  • 25% of people say they’ll do bigger grocery shops online in the future

*Data from OnePoll research, conducted on behalf of Waitrose, July 2020, completed by 2000 nationally representative UK adults

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