The rise of e-grocery is the big retail story of the pandemic, according to a new report from Toronto-based Solutions Research Group, with nearly half of all online Canadian households saying they have shopped online for groceries at some point during the past six months.
According to SRG, 46% of the country’s online households—the equivalent of approximately 5.6 million households—have shopped online for groceries during the pandemic, up from just 19% in 2018.
Fifty-seven per cent of online households with kids have purchased groceries online during the pandemic, compared with 35% of empty nesters.
In the July study of 1,350 Canadians, 17% of respondents said they had used an online grocery service in the past week, up from just 7% in 2018 and 5% in October 2016.
However, the report said the online grocery battle is “far from decided” in Canada. While more than a quarter (26%) of online grocery shoppers purchased from grocery banners controlled by Loblaw Companies Limited (including Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws/Instacart and Maxi), both Walmart (17%) and Amazon (11%) are also in the mix, followed by Empire/Sobeys (10%) and Metro (5%).
(Loblaw and Walmart have curbside and delivery options at locations across the country, Metro offers delivery in parts of Ontario and Quebec and Empire made its foray into e-grocery in the Greater Toronto Area in July.)
The study said the industry also had players such as Uber Eats, Doordash, Skip the Dishes to contend with, which have a combined share of 7%.
The study said grocery is the only part of Canada’s e-commerce industry not dominated by Amazon, which has become “synonymous” with online purchasing in Canada. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents mentioned the U.S. retail giant unprompted when asked about the online vendors they purchase from most. A similar proportion of respondents, 78%, said they had purchased at least one item from Amazon in the past six months.
The pandemic has also helped reinforce Amazon’s already dominant position in Canadian e-commerce. More than half (52%) of the country’s online households said they have purchased from Amazon three or more times in the past six months, followed by Walmart at 16% and Costco and Canadian Tire at 11% and 10%, respectively.
Nearly half of the country’s online households (47%) now have an Amazon Prime membership, up more than 10 percentage points from 36% in May 2019. Nearly two-thirds of households headed by millennials have Amazon Prime, as do more than half of families with children.
SRG said it expected Canadian e-commerce to increase through the rest of 2020, with shoppers increasingly coming to appreciate its convenience at the same time that safety concerns around COVID-19 persist.