Digital Grocery Shopping Is Here: How to Navigate It

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Grocery stores are at a pivotal juncture. As more shoppers go online for their food and other purchases, retailers are poised to use this behavioral shift to their advantage. At the same time, they need to tread carefully, staying close to their communities and respecting the customer relationship. Keep reading to find out how to keep up with current trends.

On an upward trend

The appetite for online grocery shopping is growing. Some 26% of regional grocery shoppers consider themselves online grocery shoppers, and 52% claim to have done at least some online grocery shopping in the last month, according to findings of Mercatus 2018 Shopper Surveys. Mercatus, which provides digital eCommerce solutions for the grocery store segment, analyzed 50,000 U.S. grocery shopper surveys and an additional survey of over 2,000 U.S. consumers for the report.

And the online grocery shopping trend is just beginning: 70% of shoppers surveyed said they have been doing so for less than two years, and 45% started with this past year.

Among the large shopper sample, buyers expressed an interest in several technology enhancements, including using self-checkout, comparing shopping prices from a mobile device in-store, building a shopping list on a grocer’s website to use on mobile in-store and using online grocery shopping; and ordering online to pick up at the grocery store.

The demand for click-and-collect shopping, in particular, is growing at a rapid pace around the country. Over one-third (35%) of U.S. adult shoppers have used click-and-collect and/or delivery options in the past month, according to Mercatus’ national poll. Of those who had, 6% had groceries delivered, 10% had used click-and-collect and 19% had used a combination of these options.  

Community first

The nascent interest in new technologies presents an opportunity for retailers to enhance in-store experiences and create more compelling reasons for patrons to look digitally for their grocery shopping needs. But the segment has to be deliberate about executing such changes, points out Sylvain Perrier, CEO of Mercatus Technologies.

“Regional grocery stores are a community gathering place,” he says. “There is a reciprocity of giving back to the community that requires special attention and must be guarded, even as new technologies become available that can offer convenience while distancing the buyer from the seller. Careful adoption of new digital capabilities ought to enhance local community experiences.”

Along these lines, as grocery stores consider partnering with third party delivery specialists, such as DoorDash, Instacart and Shipt, they need to make sure to retain their customer relationships. This means not sacrificing growth through third parties at the expense of the store’s reputation.

Here are four ways grocery stores turning to digital solutions can ensure success:

  1. Own the customer: Take control of the customer and all data associated with them.
  2. Win the entire customer experience: Think from start to finish and solve the problems that surround the experience of shopping, not just shopping itself.
  3. Join the ride with the customers: Reduce the less enjoyable aspects of shopping while increasing experiences and one-to-one value offerings.
  4. Bring the local store to every shopper’s home: Digital marketing should encourage and grow in-store experiences.

Consumers clearly want digital options, and grocery stores must respond in kind. But they need to do it in a way that strengthens, not weakens, the customer relationship. E-commerce offers a way for grocery stores to increase customer loyalty—engage customers where and how they want to shop and drive convenience, whether that means in-store service, curbside pick-up or home delivery. Stores that carefully pivot to digital offerings will end up reaping the rewards at the end.

This post is sponsored by Mercatus