Food Retailing’s Digital Future Is Filled With Hybrid Shoppers
What to Expect in E-Grocery
The pandemic has had a profound effect on shopper behavior, but now what? To find out, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar Intelligence surveyed 1,000 shoppers and uncovered surprising new patterns of behavior and future shifts. For example:
- 28% of shoppers say that they won’t return to in-store grocery shopping following widespread vaccine availability, because they find online shopping so much easier.
- 39% of shoppers do 75% of their grocery shopping in-store, and only 19% solely shop online for all of their groceries.
- Although 86% say that they’ll return to in-store grocery shopping, 14% say that they won’t because they won’t feel safe or don’t have the time to go to stores.
- 25% of shoppers do 75% of their grocery shopping via a mobile device/app.
- 20% do all of their grocery shopping via a mobile device/app.
- 35% say that online shopping offers a faster product selection and checkout process.
“When I was at Domino’s and proposed online ordering for the pizza category, people laughed at me,” Weisberg recounts. Digitally enabled orders now account for well over half of Domino’s business, and CEO Patrick Doyle refers to Domino’s as a tech company that just happens to sell pizza.
At Zipcar, the goal was to create a mobile-first, completely digital experience that streamlined some of the more unpleasant aspects of purchasing transportation.
“Who enjoys going up to the rental car counter and being pushed to buy insurance?” Weisberg says. “At Zipcar, your entire relationship can be digital.”
For its part, the auction industry was even further behind the digital adoption curve than grocery, relying on a system of gestures and paddles at a physical auction location.
“The biggest technology adoption of the past 25 years in the auction industry was they allowed phones into the room so a clerk could raise a paddle for you,” Weisberg says. That approach wasn’t scalable, so Invaluable leveraged technology to create new digital engagement methods that opened auctions up to a global audience, benefiting buyers, the auction house and consignors.
Grocery Is Different
Grocery is going through a great transformation currently, in terms of technology enabling shopper behavior, how brands engage shoppers and how retailers operate. The pandemic forced the migration of shoppers to digital buying channels at an unprecedented rate. As a result, roughly half of grocery shoppers are what Weisberg calls “hybrid shoppers.” They make purchases online and in-store, which makes them of extreme value to the retailers who earn their loyalty.
Key to earning that loyalty is personalization, or what Weisberg describes as “individualization.” Shoppers are sharing more and more data about themselves and their households with retailers — every transaction, every basket, every click, every coupon redemption, every loyalty program engagement, every credit card swipe, every survey are supplying retailers with valuable data on each unique consumer’s declared or inferred preferences, according to Weisberg.
The data allows retailers to consider the individual customer’s dietary preferences, household routines, meal occasions and lifestyle. In return for their data, shoppers want grocers to provide tailored offers, product suggestions, recipes and information based on their buying patterns — essentially a store or circular designed just for each shopper. Today, retailers no longer have to rely on the hit-and-miss aspect of a one-size-fits-all environment, but can make solid recommendations based on household demographics and past buying behaviors across channels.
“If you show a product with gluten to someone with celiac, it’s a wasted impression,” Weisberg observes, “but with more accurate data, brands can stop throwing away marketing dollars on something a specific shopper will never consume. From the media to the circular to the site, data means that every touchpoint is oriented toward defining a customer’s needs as an individual, remembering those insights and presenting the information in a scalable fashion that meets their complex preferences.”
If there’s one thing grocers understand it’s expense control. So the prospect of eliminating marketing waste while growing sales makes a compelling case for greater adoption of technology. It also gives retailers a thread of steel throughout their efforts.
“Thread of steel is a concept that came out of the technology world, but in retail, it is an undeniable record of the media dollar that is being spent and the transaction and being able to track the user behavior, that thread of steel, throughout the journey,” Weisberg explains. “The holy grail of marketing is for every dollar you spend, to be able to track exactly what happens. Because Inmar is integrated into a retailer’s POS system, e-commerce site, mobile app and loyalty card program, we can tell if a media impression was received and whether it results in the subsequent desired behavior, which is to make a transaction.”