Grocery shopping can be accomplished in minutes – and without having to leave the comfort of home. This is the promise that fast-delivery services such as Gorillas, Flink, and Gopuff have been using to entice urban consumers in Europe since mid-2020. With delivery times of 30 minutes or less, quick commerce (q-commerce) providers are succeeding in taking away sales from stationary food retailers, and rapidly changing how customers shop. However, whether it can replace brick-and-mortar stores for good depends on many variables.
According to a survey of 2,100 German, French, and Dutch q-commerce users, many customers already do a considerable amount of their weekly shopping by ordering from a quick-delivery service. Fruits and vegetables and dairy products are at the top of the list of products ordered.
Quick commerce providers have been surprisingly quick to prove that their business model can serve more than just impulse purchases. As a result, they have the potential to become a serious competitor to supermarkets in the markets they serve
The biggest share (44%) of q-commerce customers in Europe order two to four times a month. The number of heavy users is high. About 8% use the fast delivery service at least five times a month, while around a third of users estimate q-commerce spending accounts for 20%-39% of their total grocery budget.
Many q-commerce customers have noticeably changed their shopping behavior. Half of those surveyed even have fast-delivery services regularly bring them their entire weekly shopping. This shift has come at the expense of stationary supermarkets or discounters. More than half of q-commerce customers in Germany and the Netherlands say they would resort to brick-and-mortar retailers if fast-delivery services weren't available – while only 20% would turn to alternative e-commerce providers in the food segment, whose models include longer order lead times. Users in France have a different opinion – they slightly prefer e-food providers (34%) over brick-and-mortar retailers (31%).
Higher costs compared to supermarkets
Users typically put up with added costs for the convenience of fast-delivery services –but often without suspecting it. The majority of respondents in Germany and France believe q-commerce providers generally charge the same price (60% and 58%, respectively) or even lower prices (17% and 24%, respectively) than stationary retailers. Meanwhile, 30% of Dutch customers think q-commerce prices to be rather expensive. And an analysis of typical shopping carts as part of the study shows the truth behind that sentiment. On average, q-commerce baskets were 17% more expensive than supermarkets on a like-for-like basis. On top of that, there are delivery costs.
Nonetheless, respondents show a tolerance for the higher prices. For a basket of goods worth €20 delivered within 30 minutes, 45% of users in France consider a surcharge of €2 to be justified, while the Netherlands and Germany were only slightly less, with 44% and 41% willing to pay the €2 surcharge, respectively. The propensity to buy is particularly pronounced in Germany, where the average q-commerce shopping cart is worth just under €31 among those surveyed. In that regard, the average shopping carts in France (approximately €29) and the Netherlands (approximately €27 euros), are lower. Germany, the major location for discounters, with a market share of 40%, is also a quick-commerce country. However, this does not mean higher customer loyalty. Price and delivery speed are the overriding selection criteria for q-commerce users, and they tend to change providers frequently.
Growth opportunities in q-commerce despite challenges
Oliver Wyman experts estimate the total market for quick commerce in Europe in 2022 at close to €4.5 billion and expect the market to nearly double in the next five years to €8.7 billion in 2027, with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany being the key growth markets.
One challenge remains the economic viability of the model. The labor-intensive assembly of goods is a hurdle to profitability. Plus, fast delivery requires efficiency. Such productivity is achievable, especially in highly dense inner-city areas. But that limits the model's reach to a narrow portion of the population for the foreseeable future. In rural regions, the viability of quick commerce, for now, is simply not given.
That said, q-commerce's growth opportunity goes well beyond pure grocery. In the consumer world of tomorrow, an overwhelming majority of German (78%), Dutch (75%), and French (69%) customers see q-commerce as an important channel in the non-food sector as well.
Moritz Küntzler and Marcel Käferstein contributed to this article.
About the study
For the study, 2,100 German, French, and Dutch quick-commerce users were surveyed in December 2022 about their shopping behavior and willingness to pay for groceries.