Markus Stripf is the CEO and co-founder of Spoon Guru, a digital health innovation partner to leading grocery retailers around the world. The views expressed here are those of the author.
During the current pandemic, online grocery sales in the U.S. grew to $5.3 billion in April, compared to $4 billion in the previous month, and it’s predicted that the industry will grow by 100% this year. Additionally, April saw consumers spend an estimated $100 million on meal kit deliveries which was almost double the sales of the same period the previous year. This trend is likely to continue post-COVID-19, and it has made grocery retailers, in particular, reassess how they take farm to fork, with more shoppers wanting easy home deliveries and an overall better shopping experience.
The great news is with the right strategy, tools and partnerships, retailers can quickly pivot. Whether that be offering customers designated delivery times to improve convenience, providing more curated experiences based on consumers’ dietary preferences or utilizing the power of personalized nutrition technology to enable healthy food exploration and ultimately drive better outcomes for shoppers, there are multiple ways to create a more seamless experience with customers.
While consumer demand for more convenience, tailored food choices and simplified food discovery may not be rectified overnight, there are some strategic steps to take in response to a world that appears to be changed forever.
Transparency is the best policy
It’s no secret that consumers are basing their purchasing decisions on specific dietary needs — with research revealing that 68% of shoppers across the world closely monitor the type and amount of fat and oil in their packaged food and a further 64% of the population is also on some form of exclusion diet. In other words, the majority of consumers now have a dietary requirement or a specific food preference of sorts, and it is paramount not only for consumers to know whether products are suitable for their individual needs, but it is also just as important to simplify the entire food search and discovery process. Removing the hassle from the shopping experience is the biggest opportunity. If we want to make online shopping or click-and-collect more enticing, we need to make it easy for consumers to understand the provenance and constitution of every single item they may want to buy.
A case in point: The matter of substitution items is one deserving of special attention in the world of online grocery shopping. With the recent history of stockpiling, the coronavirus created fertile ground for stock limitations. This resulted in social media being awash with tales from consumers about substandard substitutes that had been loaded into grocery bags in lieu of first-choice items. From the complaints of customers, retailers must rethink their approach to offering replacement items and ensure the substitutes are also suitable for the shoppers’ individual dietary needs and expectations.
Enable healthy food discovery
A new study found the pandemic has led consumers to increasingly choose products that help boost their immune system, and trends such as these should be amplified by retailers. Spoon Guru is an example of a service aiding retailers to support consumers who want to make healthier food choices by providing highly personalized recommendations and food swaps. For example, the tech company recently launched an “Immunity Support TAG” in the wake of COVID-19.
Grocers need to be quick to adopt innovation that enables health-conscious consumers to make informed purchases as this will be a key pillar for online shopping moving forward. As consumer diets continue to diversify with personalized eating plans proving more effective than universal diet plans, retailers must be positioned to offer consumers sophisticated food search and discovery online as shopping continues to be an increasingly personalized experience.
Research into the microbiome and the gut-brain connection confirms that eating smart is being smart. The good news is that grocery retailers are now embracing highly scalable and accurate AI-based nutrition technologies to take us one step closer to making truly personalized nutrition a reality.
Convenience at a click
The purpose of online grocery shopping has always been to save consumers from the stresses that come with doing a large shop at the grocery store. As retailers emerge from the storm of panic buying and unpredicted demand, it’s time for many to review and reinvest to ensure the simplicity and usability of their platforms.
From registration to the checkout, the experience of the customer needs to be set up to support retention for consumers, especially the elderly and vulnerable who will be new to the online grocery sector as a result of the pandemic. Focusing on time as a major factor, the chore of shopping online should be one backed by speed, which means customers don’t want to be stuck with slow load pages or have to scroll through hundreds of products to find what they’re after. Instead, search results should be personalized, feature helpful filters and produce relevant recommendations for similar items.
Additionally, following a study that found 71% of consumers base a purchasing decision on access to the full list of ingredient information, products must include ingredients with nutritional value, allergens and pack size. Once consumers get a taste of just how convenient online grocery can be, many will want to continue to use these services, and this will be further strengthened as grocers enlist procedures to fulfil orders in record time.
Final stock take
As the world continues to adjust to the impact of the coronavirus, it’s clear that online shopping has become a lifeline for consumers.
Grocery retailers must learn from shoppers’ implicit and explicit interaction to better serve their needs. This can be achieved by paying heed to what consumers’ individual preferences are and providing a more curated experience.
The success of online order service is the make or break when it comes to a retailer’s relationship with consumers. It’s so important now more than ever for all retailers offering an online shopping experience to deliver on promises as it’s the only way to secure faith from consumers for the future.
For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.