The Internet changes the way consumers shop for groceries

By September 06, 2012
miniatature people walking on a mouse pad with groceries

The Web and social media have had a strong impact on retail and shopping behaviors. It is also influencing other areas of shopping, such as grocery shopping. However, most users research more than they actually buy online.


When consumers go online with groceries in mind, they do more research than shopping - globally, 61 percent use the Internet for this purpose and 49 percent have purchased a product online. A Nielsen study on digital shopping influences found that areas with more Internet development have experienced a “flattening of online activity levels,” while areas that are still in the early adoption phases show “greater experimentation.” This means that in North America, usage levels across behaviors don’t go above about 40 percent, while in Latin America some spike at nearly 70 percent. Compared to global levels mentioned above, local consumers research and purchase less - 38 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

North Americans are bargain hunters

The most popular online grocery activities in North America are about looking for a bargain - 43 percent visit coupon sites and 42 percent look for other types of deals. About a third of survey respondents read a grocery retailer’s circular online, compare product prices or look up other forms of product information. Only about 1 in 5 respondents visit manufacturer’s websites, and about 1 in 10 create social media feedback (write a review or post a blog, for example), or create a digital shopping list. Many online grocery habits are not as popular as global levels, but power users are more plentiful and more active. Regarding research time, 18 percent conduct more than 75 percent of their research digitally. Globally, only 10 percent of respondents have those research levels.

Identifying digitally inclined consumers

While social engagement is still low, customers who do create reviews are more active. Since social media users connect regularly and have increasing influence on how brands are perceived online, marketers must strategize accordingly. According to Nielsen, “[they] need to encourage feedback and provide specialized experiences that increase engagement and build a two-way relationship with the brand.” While local usage levels are the lowest of the globe, in North America the increase is most dramatic  - 14 percent of consumers used social media sites to help make purchase decisions in 2010, up to 21 percent in 2011. These trends show that brands must identify their digitally-inclined customers, determine their preferred activities and access device - then they can optimize their promotions.

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