COVID-19 has permanently changed the way we shop for groceries and accelerated the trend towards online shopping, according to prominent retail analysts.
Ordering groceries online has become a mainstay for Australians during COVID-19 lockdowns, with Woolworths and Coles noting record e-commerce growth in their half-yearly financial results for 2021.
But what was once considered a passing trend a few years ago is expected to become an everlasting favourite thanks to COVID-19.
“[COVID-19] changes consumer behaviour. The more entrenched these pandemics and the like become, the longer people have a chance to play with the technology out of need rather than out of desire, and learn about its benefits,” Retail Doctor Group CEO Brian Walker told The New Daily.
“We are changing our shopping habits anyway, but COVID-19 has accelerated this to the point where online growth in these categories is anywhere between 20 and 40 per cent.
“What was single-digit growth in those areas pre-COVID is well and truly double-digit growth. It hasn’t changed the trend but it has accelerated it dramatically.”
It comes as new digital grocery service Geezy Go launched in Sydney this week, with aims to compete with Woolworths and Coles.
Geezy Go prepares orders in dark stores – warehouses with products for online shopping only – and charges a flat delivery fee of $3.99 using its own network of motorcycle drivers.
It is promising deliveries in under 20 minutes and says it is already offering a range of products to customers in 60 suburbs in Sydney.
But Mr Walker said that while the idea of an independent, online-only supermarket is more viable and accessible for customers than ever, snatching money away from the two conglomerate supermarkets was no easy feat.
Woolworths and Coles increased their online sales by 77.9 per cent and 61 per cent respectively this half-year.
“Fifteen years ago, every 85 cents in every dollar was spent at either a Coles or Woolworths business. Aldi has shown us there’s definitely room for new entrants … [so] it’s going to be interesting,” Mr Walker said.
“The challenge will be being price competitive, I think, because you need scale and range to do that. And to do that you need demand, and to get demand you need to be price competitive, and so the circle continues.”
Mr Walker said “time will tell” as to whether Geezy Go has a “really clear point of difference”.
“We are seeing everywhere in the world it is a game of scale and a game of buying power,” he said.
Geezy Go plans to open dark stores in Melbourne and across the country by the end of the year.
“The traditional model is where the large supermarket chains have excelled, mainly people going into a store and spending time wandering the aisles,” a Geezy Go spokesman told The New Daily.
“We can digitise this whole experience, [and] what that allows for (are) the efficiencies that come with online shopping to be paired with our dark-store concept.”