Appetite for change: online shoppers set to shake-up grocery sector

The grocery sector has seen significant top-down change in recent months. With Tesco’s new budget brand, Jack’s, entering the scene and Waitrose piloting a new 2-hour home delivery service, it seems the major players are participating in one, co-ordinated ‘land grab’ to shore up loyalty across large swathes of the market.

For both budget and premium supermarkets, understanding the drivers of change among consumers is paramount. They must learn how loyalty will be determined going forward, what they can do to catalyse the process, and the importance of ensuring the business can be agile in adapting to sudden changes in consumer preference.

When it comes to change, recent research commissioned by Bazaarvoice and executed by IGD found nearly three in five grocery shoppers claim to have purchased a new product in the last month.

The study of 1,900 grocery shoppers, including 1,100 who have shopped online for their groceries in the last year, identified the trend is most evident in impulse categories such as savoury snacks, sweets and baked goods.

This puts the retailers in an interesting position. While loyalty to brands – the food producers – seems to be in flux with the rise of online shopping, it remains to be seen how this could determine consumers’ choice of preferred retailer in an increasingly online world.

Expectations and behaviours change

To date, retailers have been focused on embedding loyalty amongst their existing online shoppers through delivery perks. Online delivery saver schemes have so far proven very popular, with 32% of consumers now stating they use such a service, according to IGD.

It’s clear from Waitrose’s recent move, giving customers the option of allowing delivery drivers to enter their homes using an access code, that supermarkets are keen to take this strategy a step further.

However, this hinges on consumer priorities staying the same. In truth, IGD’s most recent ShopperVista identified ‘being more experimental’ as one of five mega trends that will heavily determine the way in which consumers evolve.

We’ve already seen how consumers have moved from only trusting black cab drivers to Uber, from hotels on their holidays abroad to a stranger they found on AirBnB. There’s a whole new ecosystem of trust established among consumers that is encouraging this trend of experimentation in goods and services.

So while we can expect online will continue growing rapidly – 60% of all British grocery shoppers say they will shop online and get their groceries delivered to home in the next two to three years – great experiences and subsequent brand loyalty will be determined in new and different ways.

A new basket of goods

Product discovery will be among the most significant of these determining factors. According to IGD, the growth of online has seen three in five consumers adapt their purchasing habits to try new products on at least a monthly basis.

It makes sense, no longer limited by what might be available in their local store, or perhaps looking to change up from what they’ve become used to, consumers are actively looking for variation in their weekly shop. Product sampling will become essential in ensuring this desire for change leads smoothly to brands stocked by the supermarket.

One facet of this is that shoppers are more interested in receiving free samples with their regular online grocery shop. This not only provides significant opportunity for brands to get their products into shoppers’ hands, but also to collect feedback.

Importantly, feedback is good way to glean insights that can then inform product development. With the customer content they’ve gathered, they’re well-positioned to negotiate with suppliers and ensure all necessary changes are made.

Everyone’s a food critic

With online growing and shoppers demonstrating an appetite to try new products, reviews could have a drastic impact on the grocery sector. 40% of all grocery shoppers say they like reading a review for other products and should read them for food and grocery products as well.

This is a good thing. In other sectors, ratings and reviews are a well-established means of helping customers make informed purchase decisions. They also assist in product discoverability and driving future sales.

The opportunity for the grocery market is clear; amplifying the voice of the customer to create more personalised shopper experiences will ultimately result in increased basket value and customer loyalty. Brands and retailers need to be agile in order to harness these trends and remain front of mind for inquisitive shoppers.

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