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Online grocery searches grow – especially from mobile: BRC

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Online searches for groceries are growing – and nowhere more so than on mobile, a new study suggests.

Today’s Google-BRC Online Retail Monitor for the second quarter of 2014 shows that while grocery-related searches grew by 22% across all devices compared to the same time last year, those from mobile-devices far outstripped others, growing by 94% on smartphones and by 28% on tablets.

Recipes are among the items most likely to be sought online: the most popular search terms across all devices and on smartphones alone were ‘chocolate cake recipe’ and ‘BBQ’.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium said: “In a change that will give particular cheer to grocery retailers, the latest BRC-Google numbers show that customers are increasingly turning to their tablet computers and smartphones for culinary guidance.

“With recipes dominating the top ten search terms and a personal favourite, chocolate cake recipes, topping it, this presents a great opportunity for retailers. Many grocers are integrating their online shopping offer with recipe websites and apps. This means that when customers find a recipe they like, they are a mere one click away from having all the ingredients placed in their online shopping basket.”

But searches related to specialist foods are also growing quickly. While ‘banana bread’ was the third most popular grocery-related search term across all devices, ‘quinoa’ was in the same place from a smartphone. “The internet is proving to be a valuable resource for those with special dietary requirements,” said Dickinson. “A spectacular 122% rise in smartphone searches in this category suggest that customers are researching their purchase on-the-go, potentially even as they walk the supermarket aisles to find products that meet their very specific needs.”

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director at Google , said: “Grocery shoppers have embraced mobile technology, with nearly double the number of searches coming from mobile devices compared to last year. Greater London has seen the sharpest rise in searches, reflecting the developments grocers have made in the region, for example the increase in delivery options becoming available to Londoners. Further growth should be expected as these options are expanded across the UK.”

Commenting on the results, Dan Cohen, regional director of performance marketing company Tradedoubler says there is an opportunity here.

“Tradedoubler’s own research shows that 60% of connected consumers use their smartphones whilst out shopping to look up information on a product they see in a store and check for better prices elsewhere,” he said. “Retailers need to accept and embrace this change in consumer behaviour, and use technology to implement a seamless approach to their customer experience, whether this is online, in-store or on mobile. If they do, they’ll find themselves in a more positive position to really appeal to customers that are more fixated on price rather than particular retail brands.

“Capturing customers on the move is something that retailers need to embrace through solid mobile and tablet marketing in conjunction with their digital and traditional routes, and the Government needs to help them to realise this. Providing customers with a multi-channel experience, inclusive of mobile and tablet options, can give consumers much more information about the products on offer, offer incentivised in-store deals and even help persuade them back into physical stores once again.”

Meanwhile, Paul Heywood, director of EMEA, Dyn, said: “The boom in grocery searches across mobile devices highlights our ‘always on’ economy and is no surprise. Mobile allows greater alignment with the on-the-go lifestyle of today, whilst offering a hugely personal experience due to the huge amount of customer data stored on smartphones. However, technology still needs to become more intuitive to human behaviours to capitalise on impulse and emotionally motivated actions. For example, what if your smartphone could understand that you were on a diet or allergic to particular foods? It’s these sophisticated and personalised customer experiences that will allow retailers to stand out from the competition.

“To deliver this type of experience, speed and internet performance is everything. Ever increasing channels means there is more competition for consumers’ attention so the first brand to deliver the message wins the customer. Affiliate marketing offers a back door entrance to capture customers through the lifestyle blogs and social media – brands that add value through innovative partnerships that offer personalised customer experiences will win.”

Our view: These figures are interesting in the light of the continued relatively low penetration of online grocery shopping. While grocers boast some of the UK’s largest online shopping operations, the proportion of total shoppers who buy online from them is still relatively low, at 3.7%, compared to 11.3% for all retail, according to ONS figures for June 2014. Those figures show that online grocery shopping is growing relatively fast, at 14.5% a year, but these search statistics may give a taste of where future orders are to come from. From the look of it, retailers must plan for orders from mobile devices just as much as from PCs and laptops.

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