by Peter Larkin/ president and CEO, National Grocers Association
Special to The Shelby Report
The growth of e-commerce is high on the radar of independent supermarket operators, and it’s important for them to understand the current online shopping preferences of consumers. Findings from the third annual National Grocery Shoppers Survey outline these preferences and identify key moves that independent retailers need to consider regarding their online services. The research piece, conducted for the National Grocers Association (NGA) by Nielsen and The Harris Poll, was introduced at The NGA Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
The report found that online shopping for groceries is growing but has yet to fully catch on in the U.S., with more than 80 percent of shoppers indicating that they prefer their local store to an online alternative. Interestingly, even among those who shop for groceries online, 75 percent of groceries are purchased in physical stores.
While a small group of shoppers (11 percent) shop online, food delivery is the preferred method of shopping. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of shoppers who have purchased groceries online have used food delivery vs. 39 percent who have used the “click-and-collect” method. The most commonly purchased food is packaged foods (14 percent), followed by general merchandise/health and beauty care (10 percent) and cleaning products (10 percent).
Given that more than 80 percent of respondents don’t shop for groceries online, the research delved into reasons for avoiding this type of shopping. The biggest reason was “some foods need to be purchased by sight,” followed by “concerned that the food won’t be fresh.” Other responses included, “enjoy the social experience of going to the grocery store,” “concerned that the product will arrived damaged,” “fees for online delivery service are too expensive” and “my local supermarket does not have online delivery service.” Despite these listed reasons, nearly three out of 10 (27 percent) shoppers indicated that they anticipate an uptick in their online grocery shopping over the next five years.
The clear takeaway: While the overwhelming majority of consumers still shop in supermarkets the traditional way, new generations of shoppers eventually may not even set foot in a store. From home delivery and curbside pickup to click-and-collect and more, innovation is changing the way consumers interact with retailers, and they’re putting themselves in charge. As a result, it’s more important than ever for retailers to incorporate consumer-first principles across all platforms to meet these growing expectations.
Innovation has been under way for some time, obviously. Consumers can order groceries online—or through their TV—for later pickup or home delivery. Browse the Apple App Store and you’ll find dozens of cutting-edge applications that do just about everything food-wise but cook your burgers for you. And consumers have at their fingertips all kinds of instant information on everything from nutrition facts to cooking tips—all of it offered by the latest in-store applications and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which are networks of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity.
All these changes are a new addition to the C-suite: the Chief Consumer. The sum impact of this tech explosion is that shopping in the future will be information-rich and as convenient as consumers would wish, whether they’re actually in the store or sitting at home with tablet or mobile at the ready. These innovations now coming to market are driven by a basic economic principle: Demand expands when customers (and retailers) see attractive benefits in their use.
One thing’s for sure—technology is revolutionizing shopping. That means more options and more convenience for shoppers.