Doing This 1 Simple Thing in Grocery Ecommerce Can Turn Skeptics Into Loyalists

Doing This 1 Thing in Grocery Ecommerce Can Turn Triers Into Loyalists
Trying anything for the first time can cause discomfort, and online shopping is no exception

Grocery shoppers are a strange bunch. These days, they'll do almost anything online, except grocery shop.

OK, let's first go back one week: My wife and I experienced possibly the deepest freeze of our lives: 50-below temperatures in Chicago. We plastic-wrapped windows in our old, drafty home; turned on space heaters; and even pulled out the insulated cat igloo, complete with heating pad, for our spoiled furbaby overlord.

And, of course, we ordered provisions for delivery from our grocer around the corner because – well, who's going outside in what the news called "deadly conditions"? Yes, bringing those bags in without icicles hanging off my eyelids was the very definition of "convenience."

But most grocery shoppers on any other day would not use that word to describe their experiences shopping online. In fact, even though grocery ecommerce is expected to at least triple over the next decade, most Americans actually find the process of ordering groceries online inconvenient, according to a new report from Bain & Co. and Google.

Looking at the current market, only 42 percent of shoppers who purchased groceries online just once in the past year actually found it time-saving.

"This disappointment among the remainder of shoppers and the perceived convenience gap is a major impediment to regular adoption of online grocery in the U.S. today," the report says.

So how can the market move from this to the boom the report suggests will happen in the coming years?

Get beyond that one-time use. Some 63 percent of those who shopped online for groceries three or more times during the same period said doing so saved time compared to an in-store trip.

The first time I experienced anything – playing guitar, driving a car, or even going to my first dance or on my first date – I was nowhere near at ease, until I got used to it and figured out how it fit into my life. Why wouldn't the same be said about grocery shopping online? After all, it took my wife and I three free trials until we became regular click-and-collectors.

"Retailers must then invest not just in acquiring the shopper once, but three or more times to convince the customer of the benefits of shopping online," the report reads. It reminds me of an interview I had a year ago with Chris Bryson, founder and CEO of Toronto-based ecommerce company Unata (a division of Instacart), when he told me that grocers have to get the shopper to that fourth purchase before he or she will become a loyalist.

Grocers should be finding unique ways to encourage a shopper to try an ecommerce service more than once, especially if that person tried that service and decided it wasn't for him or her. Some thoughts I have that grocers also should ponder:

  • Does someone who used the service once before have an abandoned basket online at the moment? Email a reminder – then send some suggestions based on what's currently in the basket (or, if you have it, that person's loyalty card data) to fill it at the click of a button, maybe with some coupons.
  • Is the current weather absolutely terrible in one or more of your particular markets, or around a cluster of your stores? Target local residents whose contact info you have with an email offer for free delivery along with some helpful, easy-to-understand tips on how to use the service on a computer or a mobile device.
  • And if nothing seems to get them beyond that first try, bring in your web developers or an expert to make sure your site or mobile app's interface is intuitive and truly offers the best user experience possible.

Just do whatever it takes. Period. They will come.

More Blog Posts in This Series

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds