MediaRadar Blog

Grocery Wars: Instacart and Competitors Battle for Online Grocery Delivery Dominance

The online grocery wars are heating up, with brands like Instacart, Walmart+, and DoorDash spending big on advertising. New data from MediaRadar shows grocery delivery services spent an astronomical $1.28 billion on advertising from January 2022 to September 2023. With online grocery shopping projected to grow nearly 12% over the next five years, there is massive potential for growth as more consumers shift their shopping habits.

Three top brands advertising in 2023 included Instacart, DoorDash, and Walmart+, which had a combined spend of $458mm (79% of ad spend 2023). 

Instacart sits atop the grocery delivery ad spending so far in 2023 across TV, online video, paid social, print, and other channels. The company, which recently filed for a multi-billion dollar IPO, is aggressively trying to cement itself as the dominant player before competitors make major moves. Instacart dedicated 68% of its marketing budget to TV, relying on a broad reach to raise awareness and consideration. Fox, History, and ESPN were its top networks, receiving 15% of Instacart’s total TV ad dollars.

DoorDash and Walmart+: Major Instacart Competitors

Following Instacart in terms of ad spend for 2023 is DoorDash. Primarily known for restaurant delivery, DoorDash has added grocery and convenience items to its offerings, putting it in direct competition with Instacart. Like Instacart, DoorDash invested heavily in TV advertising, directing 69% of its budget there. In a massive display of spending power, DoorDash allocated 41% of its total TV budget to just one network, Fox. This indicates DoorDash’s strategy is to use TV as a brute force customer acquisition tool, blanketing Fox programming to reach a large, general audience.

In third place for 2023, grocery delivery ad spend is Walmart-owned Walmart+. In contrast to Instacart and DoorDash, Walmart+ took a different approach by dedicating almost two-thirds (64%) of its budget to online video platforms like YouTube. This is likely an effort to reach younger demographics who consume less traditional TV. NBC, ABC, and Telemundo were Walmart+’s top TV outlets.

Massive Growth Potential for Online Grocery Shopping

While Instacart, DoorDash, and Walmart+ currently lead the grocery delivery ad spend, the market is still wide open.. The number of households that placed one or more online grocery orders during September was up 11% YoY. Online grocery shopping represents only a tiny fraction of the overall market today, indicating a huge potential for growth as more consumers get comfortable ordering food and household essentials online. All the major players aggressively spend on advertising and promotions to acquire customers and encourage repeat purchases.

In addition to the big three advertisers, other brands like Shipt, FreshDirect, and GoPuff are ramping up ad budgets to drive awareness and sales with each investing more than $13mm. Target-owned Shipt spent on TV and online video ads. FreshDirect and GoPuff invested in channels like connected TV and social media. And then there’s AmazonFresh, owned by the retail giant Amazon, which could dwarf the competition in ad spend overnight.

Consumers Increasingly Embrace Online Grocery Shopping

What is driving all this ad spending in grocery delivery? Simply put, consumer behavior is fundamentally shifting as more people get accustomed to the ease and convenience of ordering groceries online. Whether replenishing household staples or picking up tonight’s dinner ingredients, services like Instacart and DoorDash offer speed and simplicity that consumers find enormously appealing. Order from your phone, and have your items arrive in as little as an hour without having to drive to the store or wait in checkout lines.

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of grocery delivery, a trend that appears to have staying power. Once consumers try services like Instacart or AmazonFresh, the convenience often makes them ongoing customers.

MediaRadar Arms Teams with Competitor Intelligence

The online grocery wars highlight the massive growth happening in this market as consumer behavior shifts to digital ordering and delivery. For brands in the space, success requires a smart advertising strategy that balances brand building on channels like TV with performance marketing on digital platforms. For retailers, restaurant chains, and CPG brands selling through services like Instacart and Walmart+, monitoring this competitive ad spend intelligence is key to optimizing budget allocations across channels and audiences. The data indicates that standing still means falling behind in this battle for market share. Brands must actively track competitor spend, test new platforms, and quickly adapt strategies to stay ahead.
This analysis of the mounting grocery delivery ad wars comes from MediaRadar, the leader in cross-channel ad intelligence. With the largest dataset covering TV, online video, print, paid social, and more, MediaRadar helps ad sales professionals and publishers unlock a strategic advantage by revealing competitor spend and campaign performance trends across all media formats.

Sign up for a free trial today to explore grocery delivery ad spend and intelligence to strengthen your marketing strategy.

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