Instacart has released “Beyond the Cart: A Year of Essential Insights,” a new report highlighting how the pandemic has transformed 100 years of grocery habits through the lens of six trends from the past year that are shaping the future of online grocery shopping. The report combines an in-depth look at data from Instacart along with insights from a new Instacart survey of 2,038 US adults conducted recently online by The Harris Poll.
“More than a year of pandemic living has dramatically reshaped how American households shop for groceries and other household essentials,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Trends Expert and Senior Product Manager. “As we analyzed twelve months of data from Instacart, we discovered that the pandemic has driven seismic demographic shifts in who is using online grocery, altered daily and weekly shopping rhythms, set off a wave of customer gratitude for the Instacart shopper community and more. As the world inches toward normality, it appears that many of the new habits formed in the midst of the pandemic may actually be driving a permanent shift in how consumers shop.”
In the report, Instacart analysts looked to search, purchase and in-app chat data to gauge the national mood and understand how familial relationships, internal clocks, household domestic roles, shopping schedules, and shopping lists are shifting as the world inches toward post-pandemic life. The report explores six notable themes:
1) HOW WE FELT: MEASURING THE NATIONAL MOOD WITH GROCERY CHAT & EMOJIS
In early spring 2020, consumers grappled with the unknown, and a sense of uncertainty was palpable as customers chatted with Instacart shoppers via in-app and text chat. As customers and shoppers texted about adding last-minute items to orders, how to replace out of stock items and more, Instacart observed signals for how consumers were feeling. In March, text chat volume between customers and their Instacart shoppers increased by 50 percent. At first, the “scream” emoji experienced the largest upswing in chat usage, ballooning to four times its normal usage. But as the new normal set in, positivity grew and Instacart saw a 300 percent upswing in the clapping hands, contented face and starry eyed emojis, a trend that continues today.
2) WELCOME TO THE PANDEMIC TIME WARP
As the months marched on, homebound consumers began to search online early for seasonal comforts. Also, holiday-related searches in 2020 greatly outpaced 2019 numbers. According to the Harris Poll survey data, nearly half of Americans (49 percent ) said they had begun planning for the holidays earlier in 2020 than they had in years past. Year-over-year searches for “Christmas,” “Christmas sprinkles,” and “Christmas decor” grew by 745 percent , 236 percent and 622 percent , respectively. Instacart searches for comforting fall favorite “pumpkin spice” started to spike as early as March 16, 2020, a whopping 15 weeks sooner than the seasonal spikes of 2019 and 2018.
3) SHIFTING DOMESTIC NORMS: A SENIOR SURGE & HELP FOR THE HOUSEHOLD CEO
Instacart insights indicate that the profile of the online grocery consumer has changed dramatically in the past year. According to the Harris Poll survey data, nearly 3 in 4 Americans who were the primary grocery shopper for their household before the Covid-19 pandemic (74 percent ) report that someone in their household has taken on additional grocery shopping responsibilities since the start of the pandemic. Between the first and fourth quarter of 2020, Instacart saw a 9 percent increase in the number of seniors using Instacart — the largest jump within any age group. To-date, nearly 300,000 seniors have learned how to use Instacart with the help of Instacart’s dedicated Senior Support Service.
4) WHEN WE SHOP: MID-WEEK MULTITASKING CHALLENGES THE SUNDAY SHOP
Instacart data indicates that the weekly 90-minute Sunday shop may be loosening its grip on weekend routines. The share of orders placed on weekdays grew by 8 percent platform-wide last year. Instacart orders placed during local working hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) increased by 32 percent in 2020. Early 2021 analysis shows us that while some consumers have returned to their weekend ordering habits, a meaningful portion of others are holding onto their new midweek routine.
5) POST-PANDEMIC: THE FUTURE OF GROCERY IS FAST
According to the Harris Poll data of those who bought groceries online during the pandemic, 77 percent indicated they are likely to continue doing so in the future. While consumer shopping habits will continue to evolve post-pandemic, living through more than a year of distanced living, new habits and cultural norms have forever changed how many of us shop.
Whether customers opt for 2-hours or less delivery, curbside pickup or periodic trips to the store, the future of online grocery post-pandemic will be about swiftly adapting to meet consumers’ expectations and deepening the role online grocery plays in their weekly routines.
For more on the “Beyond the Cart: A Year of Essential Insights” report including data visualizations and full methodology, click here.