Online Grocers Taking a Bite out of Thanksgiving

For retailers, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the glut of shopping holidays surrounding Thanksgiving tend to overshadow Turkey Day itself. While most of those deals and steals are designed to capitalize on consumers' willingness to spend big before the December holidays, there’s a growing segment of shoppers who are creating new opportunities for mobile and digital retailers on Thanksgiving, too.

As we’ve discussed in the past, grocers are among the most progressive retailers when it comes to driving omnichannel strategies -- especially when it comes to mobile. A recent report from analyst group JDA Software found that although the vast majority of shoppers still plan to shop in-store for all of their Turkey Day needs -- 83.1 percent -- 7.3 percent of shoppers polled are actually buying all of their holiday groceries online, while 8.7 percent are combining physical and digital channels for their purchases.


Flipping the script on Thanksgiving shopping, but not entirely...

For generations, people have pre-ordered turkeys and fixings ahead of the holiday to avoid the crowds at the supermarket, so buyers seeking out other channels to prep for the big meal is nothing new. Meal kits, too, are an option that shoppers have been able to leverage for the past few years, but their popularity has been dwindling of late, with only 4 percent of consumers subscribing over the past month.

The new savvy shopper can enjoy a lot of advantages by going the online route -- even compared to call-ahead turkey delivery services of years past. For instance, shoppers can get a head jump using their mobile device in any situation rather than having to carve out time to order by phone or by mail, while also being able to track their order and their supplier’s inventory levels through increasingly user-friendly grocery apps.

In fact, convenience trumped cost-efficiency big time -- 67.1 percent compared to 20.8 percent -- as the top reason for buyers to shop online in the JDA report.


Even the kinds of goods people are seeking out for the holiday are of broader scope than in years past. Nonperishable items account for 60 percent of those who are leveraging e-commerce for the holiday -- which is about on par for online grocery shopping habits outside of the holidays -- but fresh items are increasingly at the top of online-shopping lists too.

Forty-five percent of people shopping online for Thanksgiving will be seeking out produce, while 40 percent will be purchasing their turkey and 39 percent their desserts from online grocers, the JDA study found.

And while the use of meal kits has bottomed out somewhat, analytics company Captify saw that searches for meal kits have exploded by 2000 percent from October 2017 to November 2018, indicating quality and selection may be at the root of these services’ waning popularity, not necessarily interest or convenience.

Demographic shifts could be changing the holidays forever


Perhaps the biggest driver of this shift to online groceries is the fact that younger generations are inheriting hosting duties and applying their regular shopping habits to holiday prep. Research from Adobe found that 50 percent of shoppers aged 20 to 36 have bought groceries in the past year, while the number is less than 20 percent for consumers aged 53 to 71. Between the fast growth of “Friendsgiving” among an increasingly transient generation of younger consumers, along with the standard “passing of the guard” for holiday hosting duties, shopping in-store may very well continue to fall out of favor.

Going into the holiday season, it’s estimated that holiday spending will exceed $1 trillion in 2018 for the first time ever, thanks in large part to the convenience of online retail. As with grocery shopping, expect a lot of that to be driven by mobile users who are willing to pay for convenience if it means they don’t have to compromise -- or endure mayhem at the malls -- to host the holidays on their terms.

Stay tuned for more holiday shopping updates here on the blog, and let us know in the comments what trends you expect to pan out this holiday season.