Savvy brands observed Instacart’s amazing growth during the early phase of the pandemic, and now the entire CPG and grocery industry is starting to take notice.
Bobsled Advertising Director Stefan Jordev answered some pressing questions about the state of brick and mortar vs online in the grocery space, why Instacart is poised to capitalize on shifting shopper patterns, and what categories and brands will perform well in the years to come.
What percentage of the overall grocery market is online right now?
Where do you think it will settle? Where could it end up eventually?
According to a recent Mercatus study, online grocery is currently at 10.2% of the entire grocery market, and is on track to double and reach 20-25% penetration by 2025.
Above: Not the huge 2020 bump fueled by COVID, and staggering projected growth over the next 5 years. Source: Mercatus
At Bobsled, we’ve witnessed explosive growth in this category. Approximately one out of every three new clients Bobsled signed in the second half of 2020 sell grocery and/or CPG products on Amazon. Based on our own market intel, we would not be surprised if online grocery’s growth exceeded expectations and reached 25-30% of the entire grocery market by 2025.
Which grocery platform stands out as the most likely to capitalize on this shift from brick-and-mortar to online?
Of all the different online grocery platforms, Instacart seems to be well placed to capitalize on this shift in consumer behavior.
If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, Instacart is an online ordering solution for grocery shoppers. Users create an Instacart account, order groceries from local stores either via desktop or their mobile device, an Intsacart ‘picker’ assembles the order, and then Instacart facilitates a home delivery or an in-store pickup.
Instacart has experienced staggering growth in 2020. To learn more check out An Introduction To Instacart For Brands.
Instacart works with 400 retailers with a total of 30,000 (!) stores. This means that at any given time, Instacart is running 30,000 advertising auctions at the store level. Six of the top seven US retailers (e.g. Walmart, Kroger and Costco) are on Instacart’s marketplace. For all of these reasons, Instacart can deliver specificity for each individual shopper unlike any other online grocery retailer.
Due to the infancy of the platform, advertising on Instacart has amazing ROI at the moment. Early adopters will surely benefit for a variety of reasons as the channel matures.
What type of grocery brands will perform strongly during the COVID era?
In a recent post, How the pandemic is changing game-day snack spreads, the Instacart team shared sales results from the opening weekend of football season.
Instacart’s insights showed that purchases for snacks were down more than 23% in the weeks leading up to kickoff this year compared to the same period in 2019. This downturn for group-friendly snack items is likely due to less communal watch parties taking place in 2020 vs 2019.
However, Instacart noticed that beer made up a bigger percentage of people’s online orders (+128%) compared to 2019, and light beers were the favored option on game day. The Top 5 fastest-growing beers searched on Instacart ahead of game-day were as follows:
- Miller Light: +300% YoY
- Modelo Especial: +100% YoY
- Busch Light: +63% YoY
- Busch: +40% YoY
- Blue Moon: +32% YoY
The obvious takeaway here is that in the era of lockdowns and social distancing, grocery brands with product options that cater to the individual and/or the nuclear family will perform well.
Data from Instacart also suggests that people are drinking less coffee compared to pre-pandemic levels, while decaf coffee sales are rising. Total coffee sales are down 6% and espresso sales are down 11% year-over-year.
Finally, Instacart’s 2020 trend analysis breaks down the distinct stages of the pandemic. Household brand names like ‘Clorox’ and ‘Lysol’ emerged as popular search terms in early March as consumers began scouring digital shelves for trusted disinfectant products.
Above: Searches in both the Household Cleaning and Personal Care/Bathroom Needs categories rise in unison through the month of March. Data includes customer growth. Source: Instacart
“At the one-month mark of many COVID-19-related lockdowns, searches for hair clippers and at-home hair dyes skyrocketed. With salons and barbershops closed, consumers began self-styling their hair, turning to grocery stores for a trim and a touch-up.”
-- Laurentia Romaniuk
Senior Product Manager & Trends Expert, Instacart
Above: Search performance of the term “hair clippers” in 2020 compared to 2019, adjusted for growth. Source: Instacart
In summary, the performance of categories and brands will be inextricably linked with how COVID is impacting daily life in each specific region. However, regardless of what short-term trends generate momentum then normalize, we know for a fact that more and more consumers will prefer to obtain their groceries of choice online.
What are some key features Instacart will be rolling out for brands over the next 6 months?
As of today, the advertising and promotional tools for brands on Instacart are fairly limited. But things are about to get really exciting!
Bobsled’s contact at Instacart told us to expect the following features to be rolled out sometime in Q1 2021:
- Adding Broad Match Types
- Placement Bid Boosting
- New products to self serve
- New product discovery
- Awereness focused campaign
- Email campaigns
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