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10/15/2021

3 Reasons Why Independent Grocers Still Need E-commerce

While many consumers tried online grocery shopping for the first time because of the pandemic, shoppers who plan to keep ordering online are doing so for reasons other than health and safety.
While many consumers tried online grocery shopping for the first time because of the pandemic, shoppers who plan to keep ordering online are doing so for reasons other than health and safety.

No one could have predicted the grocery e-commerce boom brought on by customer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon, grocery stores all over the country were offering online shopping to customers staying home to protect themselves and their loved ones. Now that shoppers are learning to navigate our current stage of the pandemic and wanting to return to their former in-person shopping routines, independent grocers may be wondering if offering online shopping is still important for their business.

A recent survey with 5,000-plus respondents indicates that grocery e-commerce remains popular with shoppers and they plan to continue shopping online. In fact, while many may have tried online grocery shopping for the first time because of the pandemic, the survey — conducted by Rosie, a grocery e-commerce provider for independent retailers — clearly shows that the shoppers who plan to keep ordering online are doing so for reasons other than health and safety.

The most staggering result from the survey shows that 80% of survey respondents said they would continue using online grocery ecommerce services in the next 12 months, the same as or more than they currently do now. This includes 87% of Millennial respondents (ages 24-40) and 78% of Gen X/Baby Boomers (41-70+).

[See also: Top Grocery Trends 2021: Reinventing the Customer Experience]

This is the first indication to independent grocers that they should continue to offer online services. Ordering groceries online is very popular, and if the local grocer isn’t offering it, these customers will simply choose to shop with another retailer who is. It’s important to maintain this offering so local grocers don’t lose out to competitors.

So if shoppers still aren’t using online shopping out of concern for their health and safety, why are they choosing to shop online? It’s clear that convenience is king. Fifty percent of all respondents said they use grocery ecommerce providers to avoid a trip to the store/avoid lines while only 18% said it was due to COVID/safety concerns.

Saving time was the most popular response for the youngest demographic, Gen Z (23 and under) at 45%, meaning there is an opportunity for grocery stores to grow this audience as they continue to age and start buying their own groceries.

Survey respondents also shared how they learned about their local retailer’s online offering. The most common way was through in-store signage and word of mouth. Forty-three percent of millennials and 31% of Gen X/Baby Boomers learned about ecommerce through signs in-store. Word of mouth traveled to 18% of millennial respondents and 19% of Gen X/Baby Boomers. Understanding where online customers come from is key to knowing how to expand the online audience.

[See also: Workforce Management for Retail Victory]

There are three important lessons independent grocers can take away from these insights if they want to expand their online program and continue offering quality service to those customers who want to use it.

1. COVID may have been an important factor in convincing more people to try online ordering in 2020, and users have recognized the value of the convenience.  Saving time and avoiding a trip to the store with long lines and traffic are all reasons why customers are shopping and will continue to shop online.

2. Online customers are planning to online shop at the same rate or more. These customers depend on their local grocers to continue to offer this service and improve their online experience.

3. For grocers looking to expand their online audience, it’s important to identify how people find out about your online program. If retailers want to continue to grow their online audience, they can’t wait for customers to come to them — they need to thoughtfully market this program far and wide and encourage customers to share in their networks.

Paul Hemingway
Paul Hemingway

Grocery ecommerce is only going to continue to grow, and that’s due to customer demand for convenient ways to grocery shop now that they’ve experienced it over this past year. To keep moving your business forward, use these insights on customer preference and behavior to improve and expand your online shopping offering.

Paul Hemingway is senior VP of Rosie.

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