SymphonyAI Research Reveals Dramatic Changes in Online and In-Store Shopper Behavior, Indicating Need for Retailer Agility Based on Real-Time Customer Insights

Global data reveals 52% of post-pandemic e-commerce customers no longer shopping online one year later and 40% of those lapsed customers abandon the grocer completely

SymphonyAI Retail CPG, a SymphonyAI division, today released global shopper research that highlights a stark and rapid decline in online grocery shopping behavior, making business agility more imperative than ever. The analysis of more than 58 million shopper baskets of actual purchase data across the U.S. and Europe found that more than half (52%) of e-commerce grocery shoppers left the online channel over the last year. Further analysis of those lapsed customers reveals that while 60% are reverting to the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location, 40% have left the retailer altogether.

“The overall decline in online customers and their impact on e-commerce growth is significant”

The loss of former online customers has had significant impact on e-commerce revenue growth, according to the proprietary research. While total online revenue growth only dipped by 1% in Q1 2023 compared to Q1 2022, buffered in part by inflation, the study showed a 14% net decline in the total number of online shoppers (departing shoppers offset by new shoppers).

“The overall decline in online customers and their impact on e-commerce growth is significant,” said Laetitia Berthier, head of client engagement, SymphonyAI Retail CPG. “Contrary to expectations, the losses are coming not from shoppers who were forced online during the height of the pandemic, but rather those shoppers who had moved online after the pandemic. It’s critical for retailers to understand those customer dynamics and their fast-changing needs to succeed in the critical online channel.”

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Disappointed online shoppers represent less value, even when they return to the store

As the SymphonyAI study demonstrates, not all those online shoppers are returning to the same retailer’s brick-and-mortar location to do their shopping. What’s more, when they do, the shoppers are less valuable. The research shows lost online customers that did revert to the brick-and-mortar location had a reduction in overall spend by 16%, indicating they are fulfilling their grocery needs elsewhere.

New omnichannel opportunities emerge

Shoppers who buy groceries online and in-store, deemed omnichannel shoppers, have become the most important customers to retailers, the study finds. More than 71% of online households in Q1 2023 were considered omnichannel households, and they are actively growing sales for the retailer.

Omnichannel shoppers are vital to e-commerce, driving positive sales growth online over the last four quarters, according to the research. Customers who formerly shopped only in-store, and who subsequently became omnichannel shoppers delivered 15-18% in incremental sales over the last three years for retailers and purchase a basket size that is 9% higher than that of strictly in-store shoppers.

Interestingly, more than eight in 10 in-store shoppers have not used e-commerce for grocery shopping over the past five years, meaning retailers still have an opportunity to grow an omnichannel shopping base.

Predictive models and AI can help retailers identify potential omnichannel customers, and the research finds converting just 5.5% of those in-store shoppers identified as top prospects into omnichannel users could lead to an additional 1% growth in retailer revenue.

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The research identifies massive opportunities for retailers to increase digital engagement, drive incremental growth and build customer loyalty. For example, the number of households seeking private label products online deliver revenue growth of more than 10%, with 35% of households in the study buying own brands online.

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-Store Shopper BehaviorAIbrick-and-mortar locationclient engagementCPGcustomer dynamicscustomer insightsdriving positive sales growthe-commercegrocery shoppingNewsomnichannelomnichannel householdsonline customersSymphonyAISymphonyAI Retail CPG