Digital Is Redefining What It Means to Go Grocery Shopping

NEW YORK — Technology continues to transform every industry, including books, music, movies and more. The digital age is also making its way into grocery shopping, according to newly released global research from The Nielsen Co.

Nielsen polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to understand how digital technology will shape the retail landscape of the future.

According to its findings, digital is redefining what it means to go shopping and the lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring — with shoppers becoming accustomed to the benefits of digital in other retail settings and beginning to expect them in grocery shopping.

“The connected commerce era has arrived,” said Patrick Dodd, president, global retailer vertical, Nielsen. “Consumers are no longer shopping entirely online or offline; rather they’re taking a blended approach, using whatever channel best suits their needs. The most successful retailers and manufacturers will be at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, leveraging technology to satisfy shoppers however, wherever and whenever they want to shop.”

Across the globe, there is a resurgence of the home-delivery model from the past, but consumers are not just picking up the phone to place an order. Today, they are pulling up a retailer’s website or using a mobile app.

In fact, one-quarter of global respondents in Nielsen’s Global E-Commerce and The New Retail Survey said they are already ordering grocery products online for home delivery, and more than half (55 percent) are willing to use the option in the future.

Increasingly, retailers are introducing e-commerce models that make it even easier for consumers to get the items they need. Fourteen percent of global respondents said they now use an automatic online subscription service where orders are replenished at a specified frequency, with more than half (54 percent) willing to do so in the future.

In 2011, Tesco (Homeplus) introduced the first “virtual supermarket” in a South Korean subway system and the model has since spread to other markets. Today, 13 percent of global respondents said they’re already using a virtual store and nearly six in 10 (58 percent) are willing to use them when they become available, according to the Nielsen study.

A smaller number of consumers are using “click and collect” services that allow them to order groceries online for pickup at a store or other location. Just over one in 10 global respondents said they presently order groceries online and pick them up in-store or use a drive-thru (12 percent each). Slightly fewer (10 percent) order online for curbside pick-up.

More than half of global respondents, however, are willing to use these click and collect options in the future — 57 percent for in-store, 55 percent for drive-thru and 52 percent for curbside. 

Compared to other areas of the world, North America trails in its willingness to use digital retailing options in the future (52 percent on average) vs. Asia-Pacific (at 60 percent willing), Latin America (60 percent) and Africa/Middle East regions (59 percent).

Clicks Do Lead to Bricks

The good news for traditional retailers is consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar retailers to shopping online. The new Nielsen research, though, shows that clicks do lead to bricks. This is an important takeaway for retailers and manufacturers who must engage the consumer early on in the path to purchase.

Of the consumers surveyed, 61 percent report that going to the grocery store is an enjoyable and engaging experience, and 57 percent think grocery shopping in a retail store is a fun day out for the family.

At the store, 18 percent use online or mobile coupons, and 15 percent use mobile shopping lists. Both are the most-cited forms of in-store digital engagement. Two-thirds of respondents report they are willing to use them in the future.

When it comes to downloading retailer/loyalty program apps on their mobile phone to receive information or offers, 14 percent globally report they currently do this, while 63 percent globally said they are willing to use it when it’s available.

"At present, shoppers do all of the work putting the pieces together to arrive at their final purchase decision. In a competitive retail environment, retailers and manufacturers can add value and differentiation by providing digital tools to help consumers take control of their shopping experience while also increasing sales potential,” said Dodd. “Mobile in particular can tip the scales in favor of increased shopper control, empowering them to shape the shopping experience more than ever before."

Click here to download Nielsen’s Global E-Commerce and The New Retail Survey. 

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