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Claire Van Der ZantMay-05 20225 min read

Beyond the big shop: more grocery shopping habits going digital

In part two of the Positives Post-Pandemic series, Claire Van der Zant builds on the things that should be here to stay post lockdown, with thoughts about the digitisation of grocery shopping behaviours and evolving customer experiences.

Having worked with lots of supermarket staples over the years in FMCG and beauty, as well as with the retailers themselves, I have a fair amount of experience in understanding shopper behaviour, retail optimisation and field sales strategies. What’s fascinating (to me anyway) is how those same behaviours are now evolving online, no doubt fuelled and accelerated by the pandemic. And the best bit (for businesses at least) is that customers are willing to pay more for online convenience.

McKinsey recently published insights and predictions on the next S curve of growth in the online grocery sector, stating that online could account for up to 30% of sales by 2030. “Surely not that high?” I hear you say - but it does make sense when you think about it.

Let’s break it down…

1. The big shop

First there’s the weekly or big-basket shop. Whether you have a plan in your head, a list you tick off, or just go with the flow, this is the shop where you get what you know you need for the coming week or fortnight.

In the pandemic, online or click and collect slots for these types of shop were like gold dust. Rightly so, we reserved slots for the elderly, vulnerable and key workers, and with supermarkets not prepared for the surge in demand, most of us had to make do with a mask and hand sanitiser to brave it in store. As the months rolled on, online capacity rose, and it surged in popularity as the best way to do your weekly shop.

Online experiences got smoother, online supermarket options grew and online shopping became more accessible to more people who previously wouldn’t have considered the channel.

Now that we're no longer facing restrictions on social distancing or wearing masks, the supermarkets are bustling once again. But I bet most of you will see at least one grocery delivery van go past your house or when you're on your way to work. I probably see at least five a day in Surrey. The big-basket shop is gaining ground online.

2. The top up shop

Next there’s the top-up shop which can be the ‘I forgot stuff from the weekly shop’, or the ‘grandma is coming for dinner and I haven’t got enough’, or the ‘I can’t face a big shop, I’ll just do a quick one’.

Typically we just pop to the local high street or convenience store to grab a few bits. Pre-pandemic, I don’t think anyone would have thought about doing this any other way. Then the pandemic hit and the marketplace model provided an answer to taking the top-up shop online.

Cue Amazon Fresh, Deliveroo partnerships with Co-op, convenience specific marketplaces such as Getir and Flink, and more niche offerings such as Too Good To Go. Now, you could be watching a film on Netflix, fancy a bag of Doritos, order it on an app and get it delivered all within 20-30 minutes. Mind. Blown.

This one is a big shift from what would have been an entirely in-store experience before lockdown. Minimum online basket spends and pre-scheduled delivery slots at the big supermarkets meant that the top up shop simply had to be offline. Not anymore!

3. Everything in-between

Then there’s the breakfast, brunch, lunch, munch shop. When you’re out and about, either at work or in your down time, grabbing a bite or drink to satisfy your cravings.

“Ok this is definitely only an in-store experience” you say? Well… not so much now.

Delivery apps such as Uber Eats and Just Eat got smart and brought a much bigger breakfast and lunchtime offering to customers during the pandemic. From McDonald’s McMuffins for breakfast, Starbucks for the mid-morning coffee fix, or good old Greggs for lunch, you can click and receive an individual meal wherever you happen to be. At work. At home. At the gym. Wherever!

In parallel, more venues are now switching on to the click and collect model for brunch and lunch. Coupled with active loyalty offers (the good old stamps on a card), online is playing a key part in creating a more streamlined experience for customers to order, pay and collect without having to queue. 

4. Impulse buys

Finally, there’s the impulse shop, which is usually when you are getting something else, like at the petrol station, and get tempted into a naughty pack of crisps or a bar of chocolate. For this you do kind of need the in-store experience. It’s not like sitting on the sofa wishing you had some popcorn. This kind of shop is when you weren't even hungry or thirsty, but still bought it anyway. Real impulse. That’s kind of hard to replicate online, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Shoppable popup adverts on your content and shorter delivery timelines might make this the next area for online disruption. I kind of hope not, because I’m sure like many people, we have the rule of not having things to tempt us in the house. If it can be ordered in a flash and arrive in minutes, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that might be very dangerous (to the waistlines)!

Where's it all going?

I don’t think online is going to entirely replace in-person shopping anytime soon, but the evolution and growth of grocery and convenience goods online is now responding to more of our typical shopping behaviours and needs. What’s really exciting is that it also opens up a lot more competition in this space.

Marketplaces and marketplace models are driving this transformation, from takeaways to convenience deliveries, shopping alternatives and impulse treats. Platforms that can bring all of these options together for an easier customer journey and wider range of options are key to unlocking a great deal of opportunity.

As with any big online revolution, getting it right requires a keen eye on delivering great customer experiences across all of your touchpoints. For marketplaces, this means getting it right for both your buyers and sellers, all the way through the process.

Shieldpay is passionate about delivering best in class customer experience for buyers and sellers, pioneering Buyer & Seller Approved Transactions with our marketplace engine to give everyone complete peace of mind. If you want to take your grocery or foodie marketplace to the next level, come and have a chat. We love to talk all things grocery and customer experience!

Read part one – Order & Pay: Top learnings from lockdown


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