While virtually every analytics group in the industry is predicting significant – if not explosive – growth in grocery ecommerce, many of those closely watching this part of the digital retail space are challenged to accurately map the product (versus process-related) preferences that will drive online grocery sales and, ultimately, profitability.
Now, however, recent analysis of consumer purchase activity conducted by Inmar Analytics finds that brand – as a product attribute – is at, or near, the top of many consumer decision trees (CDT) for online grocery product purchases.
Varying Impact Across Channels
This revelation regarding the elevated position of brand in the hierarchy of consumers’ purchase decision criteria raises serious considerations for marketers – especially in light of the fact that Inmar’s latest CDT development points to brand being consistently more important to online grocery shoppers than to brick-and-mortar shoppers. Trading partners, contending with channel blurring, need to be ever cognizant of this critical distinction in “brand effect” as they accelerate their collaborative pursuit of an effective omnichannel approach to activating shoppers.
One Key Influence Among Many
Understanding the importance of brand in context with other decision-influencing product attributes is, of course, required to inform effective strategy. Inmar’s CDT formulation provided that context through in-depth analysis of billions of transactions and millions of household baskets over time, with attention given to the key product attributes of all products purchased, including product size, pack type, form, flavor, and any number of specified contents, e.g., fat, sodium, sugar, caffeine, etc.
Using proprietary pattern recognition algorithms, Inmar was able to determine the product attributes most and least important to shoppers based on their actual purchase behavior. The result is a much more detailed “map” of shopper behavior – both in store and online – than that typically derived from shopper surveys or still-developing virtual shopping technology.
It’s Not Entirely About Loyalty
The elevated importance of brand to online grocers' shoppers is, to a large extent, an indication of brand loyalty. However, this purchase preference also reflects shopper behavior patterns enabled and encouraged by the current functionality of grocery ecommerce.
Many shoppers going online for groceries, particularly in a brick-and-click environment, prefer to find their desired items using a search engine as opposed to scrolling through what could be pages and pages of products. Because these shoppers generally know what they're looking for even before they begin their “trip,” there's less browsing/shopping and more purchasing against a list.
At the same time, the popularity of the auto-replenish feature (allowing shoppers to select items from previous baskets) is playing into consumer demand for an easier and faster online shopping experience and helping brand sales for those products previously purchased. Finally, research shows that early adopters are demonstrating less price sensitivity online and are motivated more by familiarity than cost.
Today, brands enjoy a distinct competitive advantage online, but CPG marketers would be wise not to rely on previously established shopper relationships to maintain sales. This is especially true as more and more retailers begin to personalize their prices and offers. As the evolution of e-grocery accelerates, in parallel with the maturation of the online shopper, it’s clear that brands will need to pursue improved and aggressive engagement with shoppers across channels if they want to stay at the top of the tree.
Paul Weitzel is VP, analytics solutions at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar. He leads the firm’s efforts in providing retail growth solutions for food manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Read More