Grocery Home Delivery - Early days of Coronavirus Impact

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Though it’s early days, the coronavirus has begun to significantly impact all our lives. Since early February, but especially over the past week, the public health and economic impact has increased. The changes consumers make to mitigate the spread of the virus are already apparent – from working remotely and watching more Netflix to more hand washing and ordering more grocery delivery online. When it comes to the latter, online grocery delivery companies such as Instacart have seen a surge in new orders in the past few weeks. This is reinforced by the data on downloads: comparing the average daily downloads in February to this past Sunday, March 15, Instacart saw a surge of 218%, a surge that was also experienced by their grocery delivery competitors. But what is the consumer experience? Is it sustainable? What is behind this surge? Answering are questions by mining user generated content can start to paint a picture.

To help with this, we extracted over 3,700 reviews from Instacart’s app in the Apple store for the last eight months, and what we pulled from that data reinforces this point:

In the last six weeks compared to the previous 6 months:

  • There has been a 13% increase of consumers mentioning that they are first time users in reviews.

  • But that experience is not necessarily been a good one. There was a 6.9% reduction in average star rating in the past 6 weeks vs the previous 5 months – from 3.61 to 3.36.

  • The “why” behind this drop in star rating may be due to capacity concerns or consumer anxiety. Certainly most of the negatives were around the core of the consumer experience e.g. problems with the app, delivery issues, etc. – what one might expect.

  • But over the past 6 weeks there have been an increase in mentions of text around the benefit of avoiding crowds & the virus – in fact a 23x increase in mentions of both. The base size of these mentions remain small so this is directional only, but it’s still telling.

It's early days in our collective reaction to the coronavirus so it’s difficult to understand how much of the spike in home grocery delivery is related specifically to fears of coronavirus and the need for social distancing, but a few qualitative signs point to that direction. It's enough to keep tabs on in the months ahead as consumer behavior shifts more broadly toward solutions that enable them to adjust to life working and playing more at home. And as these first-time users start to use these solutions, their trial experience will be telling as to whether online grocery deliver becomes a sustaining habit.

To find out more about 4Sight solutions, please reach out to Tom Schmidt:

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