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Personalizing the Online Grocery Experience With AI

Product discovery tech can bridge gap between online, in-store shopping experiences
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New product discovery technology is working to replicate the in-store experience through e-commerce channels, facilitating upselling, cross-selling and more through personalization.

Industry data indicates a continued shift from in-store-only grocery shopping to online as more consumers adopt online ordering via delivery, curbside pickup, and buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS). According to NielsenIQ, about 14% of consumers shop in-store only, compared with 86% of consumers who purchase goods via a hybrid combination of in-store and online. The main driver: customer convenience.

Whether they’re purchasing online and picking up in store, getting groceries delivered, or simply looking to see whether an ingredient is in stock, customers are flocking to stores that create convenient shopping experiences. As such, there’s a race to use modern e-commerce solutions to bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences.

[Read more: "The Next Evolution of E-Commerce"]

Building on Traditional Product Discovery Fun

While product search is the traditional entry point for customers – they’re telling you exactly what they want – the applications for product discovery can expand well beyond this initial customer contact point. In physical stores, customers often discover new products while wandering the aisles, thanks to sale signs, end cap displays and other methods of drawing attention.

New product discovery technology is working to replicate this in-store experience through e-commerce channels, facilitating upselling, cross-selling and more through personalization.

For instance, the right technology can provide product recommendations based on previous purchasing behavior, especially for customers who use rewards accounts.

Previous purchase data can be used to show customers their preferred brands and other similar products often purchased by other customers with similar grocery shopping habits, or to push relevant sales and deals the customer is likely to take advantage of.

Providing customers with this level of personalization reduces the time spent searching for items, allowing them more time to browse and discover new products and goods.

Personalizing the Product Discovery Experience

Personalization isn’t a foreign concept to the grocery space; many rewards membership programs give customers custom coupons based on their order and purchase history. However, product discovery and e-commerce personalization in the grocery space can go far beyond recommending the right products. 

Upgrading to a next-generation artificial intelligence (AI)-powered product discovery platform enables grocers to offer personalized search and product recommendations unique to a customer’s preferences and behavior. AI and machine-learning-powered technology can analyze and compare data at a rapid speed to help stores understand customer intent and adequately predict what a customer wants to see when shopping online for their groceries, providing options based on data, product availability and priority.

For example, if a shopper has added potatoes, garlic, butter, herbs and carrots to their cart, an AI-powered product discovery system would know to start displaying various cuts of steak, or maybe a pot roast, due to personal purchasing history, as well as general purchase patterns and overall data trends.

Integrating With Inventory

Personalized recommendations and advanced AI-powered product discovery platforms can also integrate with inventory systems to provide additional recommendations. In the above example, if ribeye steaks are on sale, the product discovery platform can push them to the top of the recommendations or search results. It can also prioritize cuts of meat or brands with higher profit margins while deprioritizing items that are low in stock. This helps the customer make a fully rounded purchase as customer service and inventory management issues are reduced.

As grocers continue to navigate supply chain issues, product discovery technology can take into account overstock items and availability to provide users with recommendations similar to the out-of-stock item they’re searching for, based on what similar products and brands are available. It can also direct shoppers to another location where their desired item is available, saving the sale and possibly triggering an in-store visit, where the customer is bound to discover and pick up a few extra items.

Using Mobile Commerce to Bridge Between Digital and In-Store Shopping

The e-commerce grocery experience can translate offline and continue in-store through mobile apps, but if the technology isn’t there to support convenience shopping, grocers are more likely to miss out on potential revenue.

For instance, beyond building shopping lists within an app, customers like to clip digital coupons. When those coupons are recommended to them for familiar products and brands, using AI that analyzes their grocery shopping habits, the likelihood of converting on a product that they might otherwise have waited to purchase increases.

For those customers who prefer to shop in-store only, this also helps to drive them to a mobile app or website, pushing them to engage with mobile commerce and e-commerce. Further, for customers who prefer to shop online, coupons for that empty milk carton can trigger an impromptu trip to the store on the way home from work. Both sets of customers can also use mobile apps to build their shopping lists and locate items in-store, increasing the convenience factor while still providing opportunities for customers to take advantage of in-store deals, end cap displays and other promotions.

Helping Customers Shop Better

To serve today’s modern consumer, grocers should look for headless product discovery technology powered by AI that enhances their omnichannel strategy and ultimately improves the customer experience, because the growing use of digital channels for grocery shopping will only increase as consumers continue to prioritize convenience.

Investing in the most advanced technology is the best way to meet consumers’ expectations and create personalized grocery experiences, online or in-store. Product discovery technology with access to the right customer data points is the most practical way for grocers to provide customers with the next-generation, convenient shopping experience they’re looking for while engaging them anywhere they want to shop, digitally or in person.

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About the Author

Roland Gossage

Gossage leads the overall vision, strategy, operations and development of GroupBy, which has offices in Toronto and Austin, Texas. He's a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, services, operations and development in the enterprise software industry. His previous roles included stints at Endeca, Cognos, Hummingbird Communications and Pure Data. Prior to his career in software, Gossage was a member in the Royal Canadian Armored Corps.
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