Six shopping occasions driving digital purchases

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Six shopping occasions driving digital purchases

Related tags: Retailing

While only a small portion of people currently buy food online, the expansion of digital shopping is eroding consumer loyalty to retailers – forcing them to rethink how best to approach consumers, according to an industry consultant. 

Previously, shoppers bought most of their groceries from one store during routine or stock up trips and occasional “fill in”​ trips at corner or convenience stores, but these shopping occasions, and the steady foot traffic they create, are changing as online shopping becomes more pervasive, according to Bill Bishop, chief architect for Brick Meets Click, which helps retailers, suppliers and tech companies navigate growth opportunities.

He explained during a recent webinar hosted by The Food Institute that digital is expanding the possibilities that each consumer has to shop for groceries, such as options to subscribe & save or click & collect that are replacing fill in and routine shopping trips. Direct to consumer delivery of meal kits and food bundles also are cutting back on the need to stockpile staples.

This change does not have to be a threat to retailers though, he said. Rather, if they embrace the evolving shopping occasions taking place in the store with those taking place online, they will begin to see “an increasingly rich set of opportunities for selling.”

But the first step to capitalizing on these changes is to understand what drives consumers to select each option so that retailers and manufacturers that deliver directly to consumers can meet those needs, Bishop said.

He breaks the motivation into six new shopping occasions, each of which hold potential.

“Take my order”

The shopping occasion with the most immediate potential online is one Bishop calls “take my order.”

He explains this occasion focuses on already prepared foods or ones that can quickly be assembled into a meal solution, he said.

This occasion currently is being met mainly by food service players, but the more convenient retailers make ordering and picking-up food, the more likely they will attract consumers. One way to do this is by allowing these consumers to pay online and then skip the checkout line when they pick up their order, he said.

“Stick to my budget”

The most familiar online shopping occasion is the one that most closely resembles current in store shopping and that is the consumer who wants a controlled, planned experience, Bishop said.

This occasion is characterized by a desire to minimize purchases and the time it takes to shop. It often centers on a long-list that online retailers can ease by saving for future shopping trips.

Retailers can also appeal to these consumers by helping them keep the basket price down, offering discounts on fees for larger orders and accepting coupons, Bishop said.

Urgent purchases

The third common online shopping occasion is for urgent requirements or products that use to be bought at convenience stores.

Retailers and manufacturers that offer DTC sales can meet this need by partnering with delivery services like Instacart or Google Express, which can bring consumers their orders within two hours, Bishop said. He added this occasion is “one of the most dynamic areas of change,”​ and should be watched carefully.

“Help me host”

Online retail also can launch large orders from consumers who are hosting events and need help planning, customizing, placing and order and knowing it will be ready when promised, Bishop said.

Consumers are drawn to online retail for these services because they can eliminate the initial trip to the store to scope out and place orders.  This occasion also is a good opportunity for retailers to sell across all departments and offer bundled packages.

“Help me find better options”

Consumers with dietary needs or restrictions are turning to online retail as a way to discover new products that meet their requirements and to easily research points of interest as they shop.

This includes better-for-me products, meal kits and subscription or auto-replenishment services, Bishop said. He recommends organizing goods online by lifestyle, known priorities and dietary needs to best take advantage of this driver.

Flexible shopping time

The final driver of online sales that Bishop noted is flexibility to order groceries when and where consumers want. He explained that these consumers are trying to make shopping fit into their lifestyles and often will buy a full range of household needs.

The best way to reach these buyers is with mobile-friendly ways to order and schedule a pickup or deliver, he said. 

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