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Convenience is the main driver of online grocery shopping: study

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Why do shoppers choose to buy their groceries online? The received wisdom is that they do so to save money and because it’s more convenient. But now a new study has concluded that convenience, rather than cost, is the driver for almost three-quarters of those they questioned.

Retail and shopper marketing agency Savvy asked more than 1,000 online shoppers about why and how they bought groceries online. Researchers also watched and analysed shoppers’ behaviour as they bought online, carrying out in-depth interviews. Some 74% said that convenience was the main reason why they used the internet to shop for food – up from 55% in 2012. Cost, or budgeting, was the main driver for 19%, while 3% said they wanted to access the larger ranges that websites offer, while 4% had other reasons.

Alastair Lockhart, insight director at Savvy, said: “While the industry typically defines convenience as a format of store, from the shoppers’ perspective convenience is about making their lives easier. To them it is of paramount importance, irrespective of retailer, channel and format. This point is strikingly reinforced by the findings of our research, highlighting that online plays a crucial role in a retailers’ ability to deliver a broader convenience strategy.

“In part this shift towards convenience can be explained by some improvement of the economy, but there are other significant factors at play. First we see a macro long-term trend towards convenience seeking, as shoppers try to manage their increasingly busy lives. Convenience has never been so important to shoppers. Second, online shopping has become more convenient itself. Consider how smartphones and tablets allow shoppers to access their online shopping baskets at any time without the need to log on. Not only can shoppers do this from anywhere in their home, but from any location when it suits them. Also, we see initiatives like click and collect attracting new shoppers into online grocery retailing.”

The study also looked at how those questioned bought, and found some 62% of respondents had shopped with in the previous 12 months, while 41% had used and 34% was the choice for 12%, while and each attracted 10%. Of those questioned, 39% shopped online for food at least once every three months.

Some 59% said they wrote a shopping list. Then, 66% shop from the living room, 20% from the kitchen and 6% from the bathroom. Examining shoppers’ use of technology, the study found 23% watched television while they shopped, 25% preferred to use a smartphone or tablet to shop, and 53% added to their basket over the course of more than one session. Almost three quarters (73%) were also Facebook users.

Asked what changes they’d like to see to their service in the future, 61% wanted coupons sent to their phones, and 56% wanted loyalty cards to be replaced by apps. Then 59% would like targeted product recommendations, and 51% liked the idea of adding recipe ingredients to their online shopping basket as they bought. Half (50%) said they’d like to see video content such as recipes on a food and grocery retailer’s website, and 47% would be interested in an app showing extra product information about the products they were considering buying.

“The growing use of smart devices also has important implications for brands and retailers alike,” said Lockhart. “No longer do shopper sit down to their whole shop in one go – increasingly they’re adding to their baskets bit by bit, taking inspiration from the real world around them, whether that be a TV ad, a recommendation from a friend or noticing something in the cupboard is running out. Above-the-line advertising, for example, is no longer only about building brands, it can be an important call to action, prompting shoppers to buy.

“The appetite from online grocery shoppers – for more engagement and expansion of their use of these websites is already here. The onus is now on the retailers to deliver.”

Image: customers unpack their shopping

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