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Consumers are more frequently searching terms related to convenience, offers and fresh produce

Consumers’ expectations of convenience are evolving and are being shaped by interactions with brands outside the category. They expect digital to be a tool to help them gain control over their shopping experience in the way it does in other sectors. However, they’re often left disappointed by the reality.

We are beginning to see digital’s impact on grocery beyond just e-commerce. Digital is starting to influence which stores consumers choose and what they do in those stores. This is where the opportunity lies for grocers to win and lose customers: 93% of missions are completed in stores, 64% of these are top-up-missions, and on these trips consumers are often not committed to a particular brand.

It’s because of these shifts that last year the key question our grocery partners universally posed us was: What is the role of digital in driving in-store top-up shopping behaviours, and how can we leverage digital to impact those store outcomes?

To answer this we commissioned research with Kantar and Basis and delivered a fresh piece of Google search analysis entirely focused on store-directed intent (ie searches for specific grocery stores). From the research we were able to see the interplay between digital actions and store outcomes and the emerging consumer behaviours driving this dynamic.

A key finding was that top-up missions carry significant risk for retailers. Consumers told us that when shopping for only a few items they felt disproportionately disappointed if their trip resulted in them not finding the item they wanted, or paying more than expected. This is different to the main shop, where they accept they’ll need to substitute a proportion of items.

We also saw consumers becoming ever more specific with grocery-related searching on Google. We see queries for specific stores increasing every year, and we see consumers using more granular terms to help them access more detailed information. For example, consumers are more frequently using terms related to convenience, offers, and fresh produce when they search for grocery brands.

What are the key consumer needs that we saw consumers trying to address with the help of digital?

1. Minimising disappointment

Consumers want to increase control and reduce ambiguity when it comes to convenience. They don’t want nasty surprises when they get to a store and want the process to be as easy as possible.

2. Power to plan

Consumers are researching on convenience grocery missions, largely to minimise risk of disappointment. They told us in both the quantitative and qualitative research that they want more visibility of what’s in stock in store (products, ranges, brands), and to be able to see a consistent price from online to store.

3. Local on my terms

From our analysis on store-focused searches, we saw the scale and complexity of online demand to stores. Each store has its own demand dynamic. We saw that local demand online may not actually behave locally. In fact, the average digital store catchment area was 13.4km. These demand dynamics change depending on a number of factors including time of day, day of week, store format, brand and region.

Convenience in grocery is changing. Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in using digital to research before they get to the store and to help them ‘de-risk’ their top-up-shops. This online trail of store demand is complex. Local demand as viewed through search isn’t uniform or even physically local to store. It’s also happening in real time at vast scale. To respond to this complexity, we’re working with our partners to build local strategies that take advantage of our tools and technology to make it possible to meet demand as it happens, and to win more customers to stores.