Competing on the ‘endless shelves’: Nielsen highlights how shopping behavior differs online and in-store

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/gpointstudio
Photo: iStock/gpointstudio
Grocery shoppers online behave much differently from their in-store counterparts, and the online shopper group will continue to increase. What should brands and retailers keep in mind in this changing landscape?

“It’s a really challenging time—looking at all fast moving consumer goods here in the US, we’ve seen a pretty steady decline [across] the landscape,” ​said Jordan Rost, VP of consumer insights at Nielsen, during Nielsen’s webinar titled What’s Next for E-Commerce?

It’s a tale of two stories—we’ve got on one hand ‘this shift is caused by e-commerce,’ and the other side of the coin is e-commerce provides the opportunity to change the story, and I think both of those stories are true,” ​he added.

During his presentation, Rost described key points of how consumers shop differently online compared to in brick-and-mortar stores. 

The center of the store is where online development will happen fastest

While grocery online sales are minuscule compared to tech and fashion, growth is forecasted to hit 20% of all grocery shopping in 2025 with $100bn in sales, and it will start with dry goods.

“These are products consumers just trust can be fulfilled and delivered without breakage, without spoilage,” ​Rost said. This includes dry packaged goods, snacks, and canned goods.

“You’ll see things like frozen foods, fresh foods, and prepared meals really live in the [brick-and-mortar] store longer,” ​he said. “But, that shift will really be concentrated in the center of the store.”

Online shoppers more willing to explore, less brand-focused…

Shoppers online are much less brand-focused, according to Rost. “Across the majority of categories—the brand is much less of a focus,” ​he said. “We’re finding that shoppers are more open to new brands, and are actually trying new brands.”

Increased willingness to wander is most pronounced in crackers and popcorn, according to Nielsen’s Shopper Essentials Benchmark Study, followed by granola bars, candy, chips, pretzels and snacks.

We think this is a huge opportunity to win new customers, win new shoppers, and tap into that explorer mentality—it’s easier to swipe your finger and get to a new product,” ​Rost said. “There’s greater assortment online…because you’ve got that endless shelf.”

…but more department focused

Online shoppers may be less brand-focused, but they certainly are more department-focused. In other words, online shoppers are less likely to ‘wander’ down other aisles and buy, say, dried noodles when they actually came to just buy microwaveable popcorn.

“They’re not walking around the digital store with their shopping cart meandering and trying to find something interesting,​” Rost said. “They’re really getting exactly what they want. But what they exactly want isn’t a specific brand.”

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Posted by D, Schulz,

Since I can't copy and paste in my notes from your site, you won't be quoted or cited in the news stories I write.

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