Online Grocery Shopping is on the Rise This Christmas in the UK

Using social media data to explore changing trends in online Christmas grocery shopping

This year, more UK consumers than ever before will head online to buy not only their Christmas gifts, but also their Christmas food and drink. According to the Christmas Trends report published last year by Webloyalty, the proportion of Brits set to shop online for their Christmas groceries has risen by 24.6%.
It seems likely that 2017 will see at least this much or even more, as people cite factors like ‘avoiding excessive crowds,’ ‘exclusive discount codes’ and ‘convenience’ as the main reasons they forsake the high street at Christmas time. With the quest for maximum convenience becoming a growing consumer trend in general, how does the online Christmas grocery shopping arena fare? Will seasonal scenes like London’s packed Oxford Street soon become a thing of the past.

For this post, we explored the discussions around Christmas online grocery shopping in the UK. Our analysis was drawn from conversation data on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, forums and Tumblr ranging from Jan. 1, 2010  to Nov. 24, 2017. This data helped us to answer a variety of questions including:

  • How are discussion trends around online Christmas grocery shopping changing over time, and how do they compare to in-store shopping?
  • What kinds of sentiment does the topic attract among consumers? [How do consumers feel about online grocery shopping?]
  • Which demographics are most likely to discuss online Christmas grocery shopping?

In-store vs Online Discussion Trends

The below chart shows a gradual increase in the discussions around online Christmas grocery shopping, reaching its highest point in 2016. In comparison, in-store shopping discussions, although they account for more of the discussion volume, have experienced peaks and troughs since 2010, and have currently reached a plateau, perhaps hinting at a slow loss in consumer interest.  

However, when we examine the overall sentiment proportions around the two types of Christmas grocery shopping, we can see that online shopping attracts significantly higher levels of negative sentiment (61 percent vs 53) – and lower levels of positive (39 percent vs 47) – compared to in-store shopping.

Supermarkets’ Online Presence

Major supermarkets are working hard to engage with consumers online, especially on Twitter, as we can see from the below chart of mentions. Sainsburys score the highest for mentions, suggesting this supermarket in particular is making a significant effort in its online Christmas grocery offering. Other contenders Morrisons, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose all come in joint second place, followed by Nectar and Ocado.  


Demographics: Teenagers, women and over-35s

Next we looked at the demographics around online Christmas grocery shopping to see which groups are more likely to participate in it. In terms of gender, we found that related conversation from females overwhelms males in topics of both online and in-store Christmas grocery shopping. Males were more likely to talk about in-store grocery shopping (40 percent) compared to online (33 percent), whereas females were slightly more likely to talk about online as opposed to in-store.

In terms of age, we can see a very significant trend towards the over-35 age group, which accounts by far for the largest proportion of the conversations around both in-store and online Christmas grocery shopping. Interestingly, the opposite end of the age spectrum – teenagers – accounts for the second largest chunk of both in-store and online shopping-related conversation.
Other age groups, 18-24 (which would normally include students) barely feature at all in the conversation, in particular for the online topic. The 25-34 age group is also quite sparsely represented, accounting for only 3 percent of the conversation around in-store shopping.

Knowing these demographics trends can be useful for supermarket brands in deciding which groups to target in their marketing campaigns.

For more on this topic read our FMCG Grocery Trends Report for the UK.

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