Morrisons has announced that they are planning to axe the online delivery service in 50 of its UK supermarket branches. After launching more delivery services over the UK during the pandemic to meet demand, the leading supermarket has made the choice to cut down on online delivery and prioritise further areas of importance in-store. Although online shopping was necessary for many UK consumers due to government lockdown regulations and restrictions in 2020, the country has started to regain pre-pandemic normality and consumer behaviour is returning to initial preferences and finding a balance between digital and in-store consumption, which is seeing demand for e-commerce slow. In the UK, 43%* of consumers don’t shop for groceries online or have stopped doing this over the summer period where lockdowns eased, which suggests that a large proportion of UK consumers prefer to shop in-store, highlighting the need for in-store shopping to be satisfactory, manageable and safe.
As consumers begin to return to in-store shopping, this leads to an obvious slowdown in online shopping activity. The key reasons why UK consumers would choose to shop online compared to in-store are convenience, with 64%* of people choosing this, time-saving (48%)* and minimal social contact (43%)*. With these driving factors in mind, Morrisons must consider how to implement them into its in-store development as the online delivery market resumes to a pre-pandemic pace and consumers return to stores as consumers seek a balance between online and physical shopping depending on the occasion and what suits their needs. By deciding to axe the online services from 50 stores, Morrisons is committing to providing consumers with an alternative convenient, time-saving and minimal social contact experience in-store in order to avoid losing custom.
Shopping online throughout the pandemic was often a necessity rather than a preference for UK consumers, contributing to the lack of demand for the service once Covid-19 restrictions have eased. The main alternatives to online grocery shopping for consumers are supermarkets or hypermarkets like Morrisons, especially for dairy products (61% of consumers chose this channel) and household care products (62%)*. There is still, however, strong concern about visiting shops and stores post-pandemic. 38% of UK consumers in Q2 2021 are still extremely or quite concerned about this, which stresses the need for supermarkets like Morrisons to invest in safety measures and necessary marketing to ensure that the return to normal is comfortable and easy for consumers. With less of a focus on the online grocery service, Morrisons can establish its ground with post-pandemic supermarket behaviour and emphasise the positives of in-store shopping. It is important to note that the number of consumers who are concerned about visiting stores post-pandemic has substantially lowered since Q1 2021, where it was 56%* of UK consumers who were extremely or quite concerned. This shows a positive shift in the consumer mindset towards getting back to pre-pandemic normality, which highlights Morrison’s initiative.
Strategically, Morrisons is not axing all of its online services, they are simply being reduced to match demand as the consumer landscape continues to develop post-Covid. This means that consumers across the UK can continue to benefit from the company’s in-store and online in alignment based on their preferences. The market for online grocery shopping is likely to stay saturated, but leading supermarket brands will need to continue to develop their in-store services to ensure that pre-pandemic shopping normality can resume in accordance with consumer needs.