Surge in Online Grocery Shopping Shrinks Mobile Gap


Aimee Stone Munsell

April 3, 2020 | 3 min read

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2021

To provide understanding during this uncertain time, we are monitoring the impact of coronavirus on online consumer behaviors. See the latest data on our Covid-19 eCommerce Impact data hub.

Last week saw a huge surge in traffic to online grocery stores, with the volume of visits increasing by +219% since the beginning of the outbreak (or, the first 6 weeks of the year which we call the reference period). Transactions were also up +50% since the start of the crisis, in a week that saw many stores struggle to meet increasing consumer demand.

This week, we analyzed billions of visitor sessions to better understand how this dramatic increase has impacted device use for consumers. We compared the numbers from our latest sweep to our 2019 benchmarks for the grocery sector. 

Here is what we found:

Desktop Traffic Catches Up To Mobile

Hitting refresh to find a grocery delivery slot and keeping shopping lists updated on several sites at all times has significantly shrunk the mobile/desktop traffic gap. For the week ending 3/29, just over half of all digital traffic to grocery sites was attributed to mobile devices (51%) — that’s -7% less than the 55% traffic share commanded by mobile in 2019. 

And while tablet traffic stagnated around 6%, desktop recorded an almost +10% increase in its share of traffic, jumping to almost 43% (versus 39% in 2019). 

Unpaid Traffic Share Rises As Urgency Sets In

Traffic from paid channels was down -34% last week compared to 2019, with unpaid traffic sources (organic, direct, email, etc) up +17%. This translates into a whopping 78% share of unpaid traffic for the digital grocery sector, with only 22% of visitors arriving on a site via paid sources.

With millions of consumers hyper-focused on stocking their pantry for home quarantine, 78% of visitors in the week ending 3/29 landed on a site either through search, following a link from an email, etc. What does this tell us? While advertising spend may be down across the board, the grocery sector is not having any trouble getting consumers through their digital doors. As social distancing becomes the new routine, many consumers today are shopping with a clear intent to get in their food supply for the week, and in many cases, a sense of urgency.

Desktop The Device Of Choice For Ordering Groceries

In 2019, the average desktop bounce rate for the grocery sector was around 46%  — meaning almost 1 in 2 visitors would never make it past the first page of a website. Today, the desktop bounce rate stands at 40%, representing -12% fewer bounces than in 2019. Consumers are also viewing -10% fewer pages — confirming the idea that they are mostly shopping for essentials they already know they need. Many people are also keeping their shopping lists updated and ready for a potential delivery slot to free up.

The desktop conversion rate for grocery stores was up +24% compared to the 2019 average, further cementing the notion that shoppers today are determined and have a strong purchase intent.

Urgency Shopping Highlights Mobile Navigation Struggles

While it’s a well-known fact that the mobile conversion rate lags behind desktop, this last week saw it drop even more, with a -40% decrease compared to the 2019 average. Usually standing around 2.24%, this new 1.35% mobile conversion rate shed some light on food shopping during a health crisis. With many households filling their cart across multiple devices, with several family members adding items over time, new shopping patterns are emerging. And while our benchmarking studies generally reflect a mobile conversion rate increase when there is a sense of “urgency” (think Black Friday and Cyber Monday), the new home quarantine and WFH suggests this particular urgency is redirecting some traffic and conversions to desktop.


We will keep monitoring the data over the coming weeks to bring you timely updates on how events are impacting various sectors. In the meantime, our 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark report is available to download and contains key vertical insights for improving the full customer journey.


Hero image: Adobe Stock, via kerkezz