NIELSEN | Food and beverage retail is the next big sector that will feel the influence of digital shopping. We’re seeing the shift already: 23% of U.S. shoppers bought groceries online in 2016, an increase of 20% versus just two years prior—and adoption has only accelerated since then. At this rate of growth, Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) estimate that Americans’ total online grocery spending will reach $100 billion between 2021 and 2023.


In order to support this growth and address the unique challenges of online food shopping, companies are pioneering new ways of getting orders into their customers’ hands. From local delivery to ingredient subscriptions, shoppers are experimenting with them all. Home delivery is currently Americans’ preferred fulfilment option, with 69% of households saying that it appeals to them in a recent Nielsen and FMI survey. This isn’t surprising, given that delivery has been around the longest of all digitally enabled food options. But the emerging “click and collect” model (pickup from your local store or other location after placing an order online) is one to watch. In fact, Millennials, who can be a leading indicator of future trends, prefer click and collect over home delivery.

Click & Collect is Gaining Appeal

So, as Millennials’ incomes and household sizes grow, are all retailers ready to offer these consumers’ their preferred fulfilment model? According to Nielsen and FMI’s survey of brick-and-mortar FMCG retailers, the answer is no. One-third of retailers surveyed indicated that they are not equipped to support click and collect. What’s more, 36% don’t have a website or mobile app that enables online purchases.

Retailers can address this gap and take advantage of the demand for click and collect by focusing on three areas: who to target, what to offer them and where to reach them. Let’s take a closer look at these areas.

Who: Today, four out of 10 online shoppers in the U.S. are using click and collect, according to Nielsen Homescan data. On average, they make a pickup trip every six months (this low frequency makes sense, given that it’s a newer option) and spend $58 per trip. Click and collect attracts a broader shopper base than online shopping in general, and it skews highest among middle-income families and consumers aged 18-44.

Click & Collect by the Numbers

What: Nielsen Homescan data shows that, compared with all online shopping, the typical click and collect shopping basket is heavy on edibles like meat, produce, dairy and frozen foods. Dry grocery is important too: it’s included in 50% of click and collect shopping trips. Across retail store types, shoppers are clicking and collecting the basics: bread, snacks, cheese and milk. Within specific channels, a few unique categories stand out: household appliances and school supplies are popular click and collect items for mass merchandisers, and vitamins are important items for pickup at club stores.

Top 15 Click & Collect Categories

Where: Mass merchandisers are today’s most popular click and collect retailers, with the highest combination of online shopper penetration and sales dollars. As grocers and other retailers get in the click and collect game, they should consider implementing the model at stores in metropolitan areas. Nielsen Spectra mapping reveals that those locations benefit from high concentrations of nearby click and collect shoppers and are likely to deliver the best return on investment.

Where Click & Collect Delivers ROI

As digital technology becomes a pervasive part of food and beverage shopping, click and collect is one of many models retailers should explore to build a more seamless online-offline experience. The companies who succeed will be those that identify the right customers and locations for click and collect fulfilment, based on a strong understanding of who is most interested in grocery pickup, what they buy online and where they live.