Developing a Digital Grocery Addiction

It’s time for grocers to get serious about the next wave of their digital transformation
Developing a Digital Grocery Addiction
YouTube and other social media platforms are where shoppers turn for inspiration now, but grocers have an opportunity to get in the game and leverage their unique assets.

A top priority of the grocery world for nearly two years has been the rapid expansion and refinement of digital grocery capabilities. Whether it was rolling out pickup and delivery, launching an app, or improving site functionality on a mobile device, huge shifts in shopper behavior caused by the pandemic required retailers to move faster than they previously thought possible.

The catalyst of a public health crisis saw the grocery industry narrow the gap with other retail sectors that adopted e-commerce earlier and have higher rates of digitally enabled sales. In their haste to roll out e-commerce, however, grocers relied on third parties and costly fulfillment methods, and focused on mastery of digital basics. What they overlooked was providing an experience that inspires and delights shoppers in ways beyond order accuracy and on-time delivery.

Think about it: When have you visited a grocer’s website that was so rich with content, compelling imagery, videos of preparation methods, nutritional information, and opportunities to connect and share with like-minded foodies that you were drawn in deeper and deeper, clicking, discovering, sharing?

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Instead, the navigation and functionality of grocers’ websites have a utilitarian feel, and content is basically product pages with listings of attributes and ingredients. The experience isn’t inspiring, which means that no one visits a grocer’s website unless they have been incentivized to do so with a trial-generating offer or they’re planning to execute a transaction.

Transactions are good, of course, because shoppers who use online and in-store methods are the best kind of shoppers. However, the market has a race-to-the-bottom feel to it right now. Websites serve as replenishment portals, and retailers are focused on eliminating friction and reducing delivery times. That’s an expensive proposition to execute, and not every retailer can invest in the innovation and automation needed to win long-term while also maintaining elevated operating costs to deliver a superior experience and win today.

But what if there were another way? It feels like there’s a huge opportunity for grocers to choose a different path and make their digital experience more engaging and as addictive as social media. That’s where shoppers turn now for food inspiration. Search “cooking videos” on YouTube, and the results are overwhelming. There are shows about every imaginable ingredient, preparation method and cookware type. There are branded sites such as Tasty, Epicurious, Mashed and Allrecipes, but YouTube is really the place where user-generated content is king. Further, because there are essentially no barriers to entry, anyone with a frying pan and a personality can attract a following and become a celebrity chef. Videos on cooking are so abundant on YouTube that there’s a genre of shows about cooking shows.

YouTube and other social media platforms are where shoppers turn for inspiration now, but grocers have an opportunity to get in the game and leverage their unique assets. Grocers are food authorities, buyers and sourcing professionals are trend experts, and retailers with foodservice operations are experts in preparation methods. In short, grocers are well positioned to serve shoppers in new ways and gain greater relevance beyond being proficient in logistics and website functionality.

Doing so will be critical to success in 2022 and beyond. This is especially true as balance is restored between food at home and food away from home, and as grocers look to hold onto share gains achieved during the pandemic. An increased emphasis on content should be on every retailer’s digital roadmap, with a goal of making their algorithms so good and websites so intoxicating that shoppers compulsively reach for mobile devices for reasons other than to execute a transaction.

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