How can grocers improve their digital experiences?

Source: Albertsons
Sep 29, 2017
Tom Ryan

According to a new Deloitte survey, only 31 percent of grocery shoppers indicate that digital makes grocery shopping easier versus 42 percent across other retail categories.

The poor scores for grocery arrive as digital’s influence on the channel has spiked in the last year, according to the study. Fifty-one percent of grocery sales are now digitally-influenced, up from 33 percent the prior year. That puts digital’s influence just behind apparel (56 percent) and home (58 percent). Electronics is at 69 percent.

Deloitte found that digital now permeates the grocery path to purchase:

  • Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed use digital touchpoints such as recipe websites and blogs to drive awareness and find inspiration.
  • Eighty percent have used a digital device to browse or research grocery products, tapping sources like manufacturer and grocery retailer websites.
  • Twenty-nine percent tried products based on online recommendations and reviews, seeking answers from blogs and social media posts alongside online product reviews and loyalty apps.

Focusing on ingredients represents one path for grocers seeking deeper digital engagement with their customers. With the increased emphasis on health/wellness and on preparing meals at home (cited by 45 percent of consumers as something they enjoy), ingredients rated as high as value in importance as a brand purchase driver.

Other opportunities lie in-store. While 90 percent of surveyed consumers consider a set of brands prior to arriving at the point of sale (POS), more than 50 percent make the brand purchase decision at the POS. Thirty-four percent use a smartphone to help choose a brand during a shopping trip.

The top digital touchpoints for product and brand research used by consumers were store circulars/weeklies (59 percent) followed by the grocery retailer website (52 percent) and retailer app (41 percent).

With only 27 percent of respondents using a consumer product company’s app for product and brand research, the study authors see an untapped opportunity for vendors to partner with retailers and to be more responsive to two-way engagement and delivering personalized products and experiences to consumers. Wrote Deloitte in its report, “Timelines are compressed in a digital-first world.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How is digital discovery and research different for grocery shopping versus in other retail channels? What are some obvious and less obvious winning strategies for food retailers and vendors in the digital, omnichannel marketplace?

"The key is to convert digital engagement (recipes, product information) into e-commerce shopping trips."
"...retailers should be more bold in advertising the existence and benefits of using the mobile device apps in-store."
"I have personally done research on retailer websites for shopper journey insights, and have found significant, “deal-breaking” struggles on each..."

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "How can grocers improve their digital experiences?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dick Seesel

The key is to convert digital engagement (recipes, product information) into e-commerce shopping trips. Whether via store pickup or home delivery, grocers need to get a lot better at execution. Even without the shadow of the Amazon/Whole Foods deal looming over the industry, there is huge room for improvement.

I’ve already shared my story here about ordering online from Safeway, who proceeded to deliver three hours late (I canceled the order) after short-shipping a third of what we wanted. I’m sure there are plenty of similar examples, and no amount of website engagement is going to overcome this level of execution.

Dr. Stephen Needel

This all assumes that shoppers want to engage digitally with their grocery store — and the research we keep seeing doesn’t say that. Also, Deloitte’s numbers are constantly inflated compared to other research (FMI, for example). How many people need to look up cookies before buying their Oreos? How many people are worried about the nutritional value of (my favorite cereal) Cocoa Puffs? Just because the technology is there does not mean it has to be used.

Jon Polin

Grocers need to stop assuming that they are the same as apparel or electronics or any other category when it comes to digital. If I am shopping for a shirt online, I want to scroll to assess color, size, cut, etc. But like most consumers, when it comes to grocery, a.) I tend to shop from a list, and b.) I tend to buy the same items repeatedly. I don’t need to assess my Cheerios or my Tide as if they are new shirts. A few progressive grocers are embracing the retail category differences with the help of some grocery-specific digital solutions. These progressive grocers will see the dividends.

Art Suriano
I think part of the problem is that we think about food differently than other purchases. We can get excited about fashion and luxury items, but we don’t typically get excited about food. However, we do get hungry. So marketers through the digital world need to work on creating appealing experiences making the viewer feel “hungry” and wanting to try the item. Showing recipes, ingredients, etc. is all well and good. When I see an outfit online that I am excited about wearing that leads me to purchase it but when it comes to food, I have to feel the joy of the dining experience. If digital marketers can create a powerful online experience that will excite the customer they will find better success. The second issue is that we still prefer shopping the old fashioned way for groceries … seeing it, feeling it, sampling it when possible and buying it. Moreover, a lot is impulse buying. Shopping online takes that away. So grocers have to be careful as well to not push the customer… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

One of the differences is the interconnectedness of items being purchased. If you get to a grocery store and change your mind about what to fix, that decision may entail purchasing a completely different set of ingredients.

One of the vital pieces of information missing from the article is, what do consumers not like about their current digital experience? What is frustrating or what do they wish they could do with the app? That information would help identify what needs to be done.

Ralph Jacobson

I have personally done research on retailer websites for shopper journey insights, and have found significant, “deal-breaking” website struggles on each of the twenty retailer sites I viewed. These digital retailing challenges are pervasive throughout the industry, and worldwide with the smallest and largest merchants.

Bottom line, 1.) Create a strategy leveraging a defined, targeted shopper journey, 2.) Determine skills needed to effective execute and manage, and 3.) Invest in some new technologies that employ machine learning to eliminate digital struggles your shoppers encounter.

Mohamed Amer

The digital experience in grocery is wide and varied — and yes it is different from apparel. From store apps that capture your regular shopping lists, family events and milestones, allergies and food preferences to a complete rethinking of what role the physical store plays in the shopping experience as well as completely reinventing the checkout and payment process.

Each of the above areas have a disruptive impact on the core operational flows: buying, merchandising, supply chain and store operations. Underlying all of this is the need to move the CIO from a focus on managing information to championing innovation and creating the future. Serious investments in digital technologies and new organizational structures are a must.

The retail banner will continue to be relevant in a digital world as long as grocers shed their cautious reluctance and proactively dive into the digital pool. The rate of industry change continues to exceed the rate of company changes; closing the gap only gets harder with each passing quarter.

Ryan Mathews

People shop differently for different categories of goods. Groceries are not the same as consumer electronics any more than books are the same as antiques. We need to understand the nuances the majority of consumers follow by category and stop trying to force everything into some standardized cookie cutter approach. Technology is an enabler of strategy, not a strategy.

Mark Heckman

The first major step for a grocer to improve their digital presence is to get over themselves and participate in apps and websites that host a community of retailers, not just themselves. Shoppers that engage retailers digitally (prior to the shop or during) will appreciate not having to engage each retailer they frequent with a different app and a different shopper profile. While this makes so much sense for the shopper, I am not holding my breath for retailers to agree.

Secondly, if retailers want shoppers to use their mobile device in-store, they might want to actually offer Wi-Fi to augment the shopper’s mobile network as most of the brick-and-mortar stores are built like Fort Knox and have very poor online reception.

Lastly, retailers should be more bold in advertising the existence and benefits of using the mobile device apps in-store. Most do not do a good job of reinforcing their mobile offers in the in-store environment.

Seth Nagle

I don’t know that it really is that different. If you break down the steps — the consumer searches for content, finds a reliable product, finds a reliable source and then makes the purchase only to share about it shortly after on some social media channel. The issue is some retailers are still trying to replicate the path to purchase in-store via digital and it’s just not working.

Kroger’s and Albertsons’ apps have done a great job creating the omnichannel experience. I’ve used both and have yet to have any major issues.

Regarding personalization, I could see a retailer approaching a supplier and saying “customer X keeps buying your competitor’s item, would you like to sponsor a coupon for their next visit to let them try your brand through our in-store app?” Although the information is there this would require a great deal of data management.

Michael La Kier

In grocery, versus other channels, SKU proliferation is high and the shopper is buying multiple products. This means the retailer (vs brands) has just as much — if not more — of the relationship with the shopper. It’s therefore critical to partner with retailers as a critical part of winning in the omnichannel marketplace.

Tony Orlando
Again, for me it is quite simple. When I find an incredible deal, it immediately goes out on my social media platform, with a picture, the great price, with a description, and invite the customer in to grab it while it lasts! This is stone age commerce, with a digital twist, and it works. Started a sale on 10-lb. tubes of 93% lean Ground Sirloin Thursday afternoon. It is only $2.49lb., which is half of the competitors price, and by tonight 800 lbs. of it will be gone. Our FB page gets great responses to amazing values all the time, so YES it works if you have the right product to move at an amazing price, and in this area, this is what my customers are looking for to feed their families. I also post videos of catering events, and unique pictures of specialty foods or wines we bring in, and get good responses, so there are many ways to draw them in, but nothing beats an amazing price, on a hot meat item, for… Read more »
Ken Morris
Most consumers are not accustomed to researching grocery products online like they do for other products that are bigger investments, more complex or driven by a passion for style. It is interesting to see the significant increase in the digital influence on grocery purchase reported by the Deloitte survey. Apparently, more consumers are taking a greater interest in their grocery purchase decisions, likely driven by an increased focus on health and wellness choices as well as carbon footprint concerns manifested in the locavore phenomena. With the proliferation of smartphones and the always connected lifestyle, it is a natural transition for consumers to become more digitally connected to grocery brands. In addition to the already prevalent mobile loyalty apps, access to promotional offers/coupons, and mobile payments, the digital experience has unlimited possibilities for grocery. Logical other digital capabilities, that are already available at some grocers, will likely become more pervasive: online ordering of deli items, customer identification for personalized alerts based on location in the store, scanning items for self-checkout, product finder and virtual store map,… Read more »
"The key is to convert digital engagement (recipes, product information) into e-commerce shopping trips."
"...retailers should be more bold in advertising the existence and benefits of using the mobile device apps in-store."
"I have personally done research on retailer websites for shopper journey insights, and have found significant, “deal-breaking” struggles on each..."

Take Our Instant Poll

Which of the following is the best way to optimize personalization in e-mail subject lines?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...