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Coupons and Ecommerce: Delivering on Grocery Shoppers’ Expectations of Value

Coupons and e-Commerce: Delivering on Grocery Shoppers’ Expectations of Value
Implementing a seamless promotion-use experience between the physical store and ecommerce is key

Start a conversation about what’s essential to the success of online grocery retail, and the first mention is always — always! — “convenience.” And, yes, it would be foolish to downplay the significance of this element of the ecommerce shopping experience, but it would be even more foolish to ignore the other no-less-critical needs of shoppers in the growing but still nascent grocery vertical, in particular, shoppers’ expressed psychological need for “value.”

This need, according to findings from Inmar’s 2018 ecommerce study, translates into a widespread and deeply held expectation among consumers that sellers should provide them the means to save money on their online grocery purchases.

The rapidly growing numbers of shoppers buying groceries online are bringing with them a host of expectations from their brick-and-mortar shopping — including ready access to promotions — and retailers must be strategic in meeting this demand if they’re to grow and sustain their online business.

Needed for a growing market

Ensuring that consumers enjoy a seamless promotion-use experience when moving between the physical grocery store and the website will help retailers further generate genuine incrementality as the volume of consumers shopping the “virtual shelf” continues to grow. And this market segment is most definitely growing.

Not only are there more people shopping online for groceries, but they’re also doing so with increasing frequency; 33 percent of survey participants said they plan to increase how frequently they buy groceries online over the next year.

As might be expected, that proportion is even greater among more digitally adept Mmillennials, with 43 percent of this group reporting that they expect to shop online for groceries more frequently.

Expected by savings-savvy shoppers

Online grocery shoppers are active coupon users and regularly employ available promotions across all of the channels they shop.

Asked to identify the promotions they use when grocery shopping, 71 percent of surveyed shoppers cited digital coupons with the same proportion referencing sale prices. At the same time, 61 percent said they use paper coupons, and 35 percent acknowledged using rebates.

When asked specifically about their efforts to save money while shopping online for groceries, 61 percent of survey participants confirmed using consumer promotions to do so. This is surprisingly good news for retailers using promotions to drive purchases. However, these retailers need to do more to increase the availability of promotions for online orders.

Inmar’s survey results indicate that a very healthy proportion of online grocery shoppers don't have confidence in finding the same savings opportunities online as they do in-store.

The ecommerce study found that 44 percent of shoppers believe there are more promotions in-store than online.

In addition, there is an obvious delta around shoppers’ perceptions as to promotion usability for, and relevance to, online orders.

Forty-six percent of shoppers hold the view that promotions are easier to use in-store, while 41 percent consider in-store promotions to be more relevant to their shopping and savings needs.

This issue demands immediate attention from retailers, as shoppers are looking at multiple (including traditional) savings vehicles as they prepare for an online shopping trip. More than a third of surveyed shoppers (36 percent) reported looking for digital coupons before making an online purchase — their high rate of review indicative of their desire to use these promotions with their purchases. The same proportion said they look at the store circular, and more than a quarter (26 percent) said they look at paper coupons.

Given the popularity of paper coupons as both a saving method and a research tool, brick-and-mortar retailers should give full focus to enabling paper coupon redemption with online purchases to take full advantage of their motivational power.

Critical to success

The bottom line is that when it comes to executing grocery ecommerce that consistently engages and activates shoppers, providing convenience isn’t everything. Online grocery shoppers, just like shoppers in-store, expect great value. Pricing and savings are tremendously important factors influencing their online buying decisions.

Shopper behavior research has illuminated again and again the significant impact that coupons have on consumers’ decision-making and purchase activity, with promotions driving shoppers to buy more, buy sooner, try new products within the brand and make new purchases outside the brand.

While this is the proven case with in-store shopping, there’s no reason to doubt that promotions wouldn't have the same influence online — provided that the offers are present for shoppers to use. 

Grocery retailers that fully appreciate all of the elements that affect purchase behavior and that ensure online shoppers have immediate access to relevant, easy-to-use promotions will gain a decided competitive advantage in ecommerce. And with online grocery poised for tremendous growth, it would be wise for brands and retailers to invest in seamless omnichannel promotions.

About the Author

Susan Jones

Susan Jones is senior director, CPG Solutions at Inmar. Jones has been a member of the Inmar team for more than 24 years, holding a number of positions involving promotion consulting, analytics, operations, and marketing as well as product management. In her current position, Jones leads a team of product solution experts and business insights managers who craft holistic and strategic solution strategies to address CPG client needs and to drive value. 

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