New ServiceChannel Report Reveals How Online Shopping has Changed Grocery Customer Expectations

Winners of the grocery wars will offer a more modern, evolved store experience, catering to a growing segment of omnichannel grocery shoppers

Until recently, the grocery industry has been relatively insulated from the effects of ecommerce. But now the scales are beginning to tip: online grocery sales have more than tripled between 2013 and 2018, while meal kits, on-demand delivery services and other digital alternatives increasingly tempt shoppers away from traditional in-store grocery shopping. ServiceChannel’s new study, the “The State of Grocery Report: Are You Creating the Right Customer Experience for the Modern Shopper?” highlights the growing “omnichannel grocery shopper” segment, reveals their new, distinctive set of grocery store expectations, and ranks the in-store experiences that are most likely to resonate with them.

The study also explores customer expectations of the upcoming holiday season. With 30% of consumers expecting the grocery shopping experience to be more stressful over the holidays than usual, the study outlines how the opportunity to win over holiday shoppers with prepared meals and other conveniences varies by gender and generation.

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The State of Grocery Report, which surveyed 1,505 consumers, provides a deeper look into the  omnichannel shopper who shops regularly in-store, but also buys online and orders meal kits. While this younger, growing population is more discerning about their brick-and-mortar experience and far less loyal,  they can be won over. The majority actually enjoy grocery shopping, but seek non-grocery services and amenities like quick service food and pharmacies that are unavailable online — which they use at much higher rates than their non-digital counterpart shoppers — to enrich their shopping experience. For instance, twice as many omnichannel shoppers use in-grocer banking services, three times as many eat at in-grocer restaurants, and seven times as many are likely to have an alcoholic beverage at an in-grocer bar.

For grocers, it’s a balancing act. To stay competitive as online grocery shopping grows, they must appeal to the omnichannel shopper while still offering a fantastic store experience to all types of shoppers.

“The grocery industry finds itself in a state of unprecedented change. There is more than $700 billion on the line for those that understand the modern grocery shopper and can adapt quickly,” said Tom Buiocchi, CEO of ServiceChannel. “Smart, innovative grocers will double down on creating a store experience that can’t be beat and invest in services and amenities that blend convenience with delight.”

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State of Grocery Report – Key Findings:

Preferences for extra services and amenities in grocery stores vary by generation. Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X most often buy a coffee or tea while grocery shopping, while Boomers most often look to fill a prescription. When considering what would push them to make a change from their primary grocery store to a new one, half of Boomers wouldn’t switch for any amenity (only good value would make them switch), while Millennials would switch for in-store bars/restaurants and children’s play areas. Twenty-two percent of all respondents would visit their primary grocery store more if it offered quick service food with dining areas and clean bathrooms.

All shoppers want an easy grocery shopping experience, in a well-maintained space complemented by easy-to-use technology. With shoppers now both buying and consuming food in stores, cleanliness is more critical than ever — so it’s no surprise that clean shelves, floors, bathrooms, and carts are the most important physical aspects of a grocery store. Yet only 61% of respondents report their grocery store as having clean bathrooms, meaning more than a third of grocers are creating a negative experience for shoppers — running the risk they’ll take their business elsewhere. In fact, one in two shoppers have walked out of a store without buying anything because it was too dirty. Omnichannel shoppers are even less forgiving: 67% have walked out of a store for the same reason.

Consumers want to reduce holiday shopping stress this season, looking to prepared meals and a blend of digital and brick-and-mortar grocery shopping. Retail sales over the 2019 winter holidays are forecast to surpass one trillion dollars, and food spending will be the second biggest category after gifts. This year, consumers will lean more heavily on digital options, including those who typically don’t: 46% of shoppers who don’t regularly order groceries online still say they’d be somewhat likely to order a fully prepared holiday meal from an online grocery service. The top two things shoppers cited that grocery stores can do to alleviate holiday food shopping stress are to add more checkout lanes and store staff.

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customer experienceEcommerceNewsomnichannel grocery shopperServiceChannelShopping ExperienceTom Buiocchi
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