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GUEST COMMENT Four big ways the big four can win with ecommerce shoppers

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For ‘The Big Four’ – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – grocery ecommerce has been one of the biggest winners over the past twelve months.  In January 2021, ecommerce share of grocery sales doubled to 16%, up from 8% during the same period a year ago1.  

Make no mistake: the ongoing nature of the pandemic means that this figure will continue fluctuating over the next few months.  But what is certain is the need to invest in grocery ecommerce and cater for a new cohort of digital shoppers – 4.1m new shoppers spent over £770m over the period1.

With life slowly returning to some semblance of ‘normality’, there are a number of interesting and innovative ways to ensure that the Big Four can keep winning big with ecommerce shoppers.

Bring some excitement and enjoyment to the experience

Despite huge strides forward in other sectors, online grocery platforms remain the Ronseal of the ecommerce world: functional and fulfilment focused that does exactly what it says on the tin.  Whilst this is not to be sniffed at, there’s so much room for richer experiences.

Walmart has recently started hosting livestream shopping experiences thorough its partnership with TikTok, where digital content features key products that shoppers could buy.  This isn’t about driving volume but positioning yourself as a forward-thinking and dynamic digital retailer that can offer different ways to excite and engage your shoppers.

Think of ecommerce as a wider and inter-connected ecosystem

The past 12 months has ushered in a new age of ‘blended living’, with physical and digital experiences blending effortlessly.  The pandemic has driven real innovation with online classes, tasting experiences and tutorials, and as food and drink retailers, grocers are well positioned to reflect and capitalise on this shifting behaviour.

Supermarket wine subscriptions can command a more premium price (and grow category value) through the addition of online classes.  Online cook-a-longs and recipe boxes can compete with standalone D2C providers.  The opportunities are clear and supermarkets would be wise to pursue these, even as a provisional test and learn strategy.

Offer more curation and discovery 

Over the past year, search has continued to be the dominant navigational method for ecommerce, used by 73% of shoppers on their last shop2.  Whilst functional fulfilment has served grocery ecommerce well to date, there is a greater opportunity to inspire through curation and discovery.

With many new shoppers coming into ecommerce as a means to avoid physical crowds during the pandemic, ways to create engagement and interest will be key to retaining these shoppers.  Highlighting what’s new, curating ‘displays’ and championing different or unique suppliers have been used in different global markets and could work well in the UK.

Invest in ‘shoppable moments’ to convert shoppers 

It’s worth noting that grocery ecommerce is not limited solely to a retailer’s platform, at the moment when the shopping order is built and placed.  A rising trend has been the growth of ‘shoppable moments’, where social feeds are engaging and converting shoppers ‘in the moment’.

Use of contextual social advertising can help to get the right products in front of shoppers at the right time, from planning for that big game at the weekend, to getting NPD and brand innovation in front of the right shoppers.  Building bigger baskets over a longer time period will all help to continue growing the channel and driving sales.


Grocery ecommerce has experienced unprecedented growth over the past year: the challenge for the Big Four has been a logistical one, vastly expanding the service to meet demand and keep the nation safely fed and watered.  

Whilst channel growth may level off as cases continue to shrink and people flock back to physical stores, grocery ecommerce has undergone a significant growth spurt. This is a pivotal moment where retailers have the opportunity to innovate, test and optimise as we look forward to the next phase in the exciting evolution of grocery ecommerce.


1 NielsenIQ, 2021

2 IGD ShopperVista, March 2021

About ZEAL Creative

As the UK’s most effective brand activation marketing agency, ZEAL Creative delivers multi award winning campaigns for brands including Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Arla, McCain, Dr Oetker and Warburtons.

With unrivalled insight and expertise, ZEAL Creative helps bring brands to life, with campaigns that engage, inspire and motivate consumers into action at key moments on the path to purchase.


Callum Saunders, Head of Planning at ZEAL Creative

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