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Grocery Shoppers’ Digital Interaction Strengthening

Online grocery shopping use varies widely across different consumer segments
Photograph: Shutterstock

Shoppers are engaging digitally with their go-to grocery stores in greater numbers, with more than six out of 10 tapping what is most likely a mobile device to clip a coupon, build a shopping list or learn more about an in-store promotion, according to insights from the 2019 U.S. Supermarket Digital & Social Engagement Study from Retail Feedback Group (RFG).

The top reasons driving this year’s 7% gain of shoppers interacting more often with supermarkets digitally is to check a digital circular (55%); build grocery lists (47%); research special promotions (44%); find recipes (25%); get nutritional advice (11%); and read a blog post (9%).  

Online Grocery Shopping Use Varies

Nationally, RFG’s digital shopper study results find that 12% of shoppers overall are engaging with their grocery store to place orders online for pickup or delivery. However, use varies widely by market area, with greater adoption in urban areas (18%) vs. smaller towns/rural areas (7%), as well as generationally with millennials showing higher use (18%) and baby boomers much lower use (6%). 

“Shoppers continue to engage with their supermarket digitally in greater numbers, mainly checking a digital circular, building grocery lists or researching special promotions,” said Brian Numainville, RFG principal. “Online shopping, while growing, shows a varied amount of use across different segments,” with the highest penetration found in urban areas or large cities; among millennials and larger households of three or more; and among shoppers with household incomes higher than $100,000.  

Social Media’s Impact Continues to Climb

While 85% of shoppers regularly use one or more social networks, just 30% are friends with and/or are connected to their primary grocery store, up from 25% in 2017. But the 55% gap underscores the “opportunity to open a dialogue with shoppers,” said Doug Madenberg, RFG principal.

Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are the most regularly used channels across all shoppers, while Snapchat and Pinterest also show stronger adoption among millennials, the latter of which further shows the greatest likelihood to alter behavior, such as purchasing a new food item or shopping at a new store, based on social media recommendations.

In the past year, 41% of supermarket shoppers praised or complimented a good experience in a food store on social media while 22% complained. Of those who complained, Numainville said 42% did not receive a satisfactory or empathetic response.  

Retailers which fail to seize the opportunity to open a dialogue with shoppers on social media do so at their own peril, said Madenberg. “Especially alarming is the fact that four out of 10 shoppers who complained about a poor experience in their supermarket on social media did not receive a satisfactory or empathetic response. This finding presents an opportunity area for retailers to examine more closely as every opportunity to address an issue for a shopper should be taken seriously.”  

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