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Buying Groceries Online: 4 Major Markets Around the World

Buying Groceries Online

With crying children painstakingly pulling their parents towards candy shelves, swerving crowds of shopping carts, and seemingly endless aisles hiding the last item on your list, grocery shopping can be a stressful experience for all involved. In mature markets around the world, buying groceries online and virtual grocery shopping is growing in popularity, combating the long checkout lines in-store and simplifying the hassle of shopping in urban areas. Though online grocery is currently a small market share of overall grocery sales (2% in the U.S. and 6% in European markets), globally, more than a third of online shoppers expect to buy groceries on the internet this year, up 13% since 2015 (Morgan Stanley Research). The adoption of grocery eCommerce is on the rise, with several interesting characteristics developing in certain pockets around the world…


  1. In terms of market adoption, the U.K. leads the pack globally. With more and more Brits trading supermarket trips for home delivery options, online grocery sales are projected to surpass £15 billion ($19 billion) by 2020. Approximately half of shoppers in the U.K. are current online grocery shoppers, with 11% exclusively buying online. Nearly 20% of online grocery shoppers are between the ages of 25 to 34 and have been making more consistent purchases than shoppers in other age ranges.
  2. The rest of Europe is following suit. Within the last year, dominant markets in Europe have shown double digit growth in online grocery sales. The Dutch market grew by 55%, followed by Germany (38%) and France (25%). With more delivery and pick-up options becoming available, shoppers are going digital for their grocery purchases, citing convenience as their top reason to buy online.
  3. The U.S. has the largest overall online grocery market (due in part to sheer size). The market total is expected to surpass $42 billion this year, with the adoption rate of online grocery shopping jumping roughly 18% since 2015. Overall, 31% of U.S. shoppers bought groceries online between January and June 2016, with click-and-collect options growing in popularity as many in the U.S. prefer to inspect items when picking them up. In comparison to the average American, shoppers living in dense cities and busy (typically younger) parents order groceries online the most.
  4. Home to 8 out of 10 of the world’s biggest megacities, don’t forget Asia-Pacific. Though vast areas of the region are in the process of creating or developing fulfillment infrastructures, major cities in China, South Korea, and India are offering more online grocery options. Subways in South Korea have been fitted with virtual grocery shelves – pictures of items and their corresponding QR codes – for shoppers to make orders while waiting for the next train using their smartphones. Similar mobile adoption has been popping up in India and China; the online grocery market in China alone is expected to surpass ¥1.2 trillion (roughly $180 billion) by 2020.

Online grocery shopping is poised to explode in emerging, densely-populated areas, especially in Asia-Pacific as the adoption of mobile devices grows. For more mature markets with developed fulfillment infrastructures, shopping online for groceries is slowly becoming habitual as customers try different delivery and pick-up options, and as the service becomes available in smaller cities. The U.K. has the largest market adoption rate going towards the new trend, while the U.S. has the largest total online grocery revenue. As many shoppers realize the convenience of purchasing groceries online and as new innovations (such as virtual grocery shelves) make it more accessible, the popularity of digital grocery shopping is likely to keep expanding around the world.