Three key ways COVID-19 has affected the future of groceries

When COVID-19 first hit Europe, consumers reacted in one of two ways: either they rushed to the supermarkets to stockpile or they took to online shopping. During the initial onset, Google searches for “food delivery” soared and last spring, at the height of the pandemic, search terms were up by 300%.

As high streets shut down and lockdowns enforced globally, consumers have come to expect more items than ever to be delivered to their doorstep. So, as we continue to adapt to the ‘new normal’, how has the pandemic changed how we shop for groceries?

Say goodbye to in-store shopping, delivery is on the rise

As panic-buying swept through countries towards the end of March last year, many supermarkets attempted to expand their home-delivery capacity to cope with the strain on demand and government regulations. While tougher for some than others—some supermarkets had no delivery capacity at all—consumers rapidly began to shift to ordering online as lockdowns began to take hold and they searched for safer shopping options.

This trend has soured to almost double online grocery sales in a year. In the UK, for example, a recent report by Kantar showed that e-commerce in 2020 accounted for 13% of all grocery sales, up from 7.4% in March of 2019.

The most striking change has been with those aged 55 and over, with nearly a quarter of this demographic increasing their online purchasing, compared to just 8% in 2019. With new strains of COVID-19 emerging, and many countries including the UK in a third national lockdown, it is likely such habits will become the norm as the convenience factor becomes more apparent. More consumers are realising how easy it is to get exactly what they require, delivered straight to their door.

In Europe, the appetite for on-demand delivery has also risen sharply. Research estimates that both German and Italian online grocery sales doubled during the pandemic and now account for 2.9% and 4.3% of the total, respectively.

It’s also interesting to note the size of those orders. In almost every market Glovo operates, the quantity of basket orders has increased by more than half during the global lockdowns from March.

To cope with this mammoth surge in uptake for online orders, many supermarket chains throughout the world have formed partnerships with third party providers to help meet this demand. The likes of Carrefour in Italy and Kaufland in Romania for example are relying on our platform to send groceries to consumers’ doorsteps.

Q-Commerce is the new eCommerce

The growing market dominance of Q-Commerce is continuing to evolve and develop at such speed that we are accelerating towards a watershed moment. Traditional brick and mortar stores are being forced to diversify their revenue streams to keep up with the changing customer demand.

The route we’ve taken, through partnerships with big brands such as Unilever, Walmart and Nestle, allows our users to receive their orders within thirty minutes or less. The biggest change brought about by the pandemic has been the speed and convenience expected by consumers when purchasing food, groceries and essential supplies. And this change is here to stay.

Q-Commerce is only going to get more competitive—especially within the grocery sector. COVID-19 has acted as a springboard for real change and we will now see the entire landscape of commercial consumerism pivot rapidly towards speed and convenience.

Unlocking local businesses

There has also been an upsurge of delivery players partnering with local corner shops. The hyperlocal marketplace has seen a boom throughout this pandemic with supermarkets suffering shortages of key essentials and smaller individual shops stepping in to fill the gaps. Investments are coming in from e-commerce marketplaces that want to start investing in hyperlocals, as the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour.

One thing is clear, 2020 has seen consumers re-examine the most convenient means of getting their shopping done. Equally, supermarkets and retailers have also had to rethink business models in line with customer behavioural shifts, causing change for years to come.  It has made competition more fierce than ever before in the sector, as numerous on-demand delivery companies partner with supermarkets to help users get the items they need, in record time.

COVID-19 has truly started a wave of innovations and put the spotlight on how groceries are purchased. Expectations have now been raised and Q-Commerce is the future if delivery players are serious about staying ahead of the game and keeping a competitive edge.

By Daniel Alonso, General Manager of Q-Commerce at Glovo