This has been the year in which multichannel commerce penetrated mainstream grocery, and with new services launching across many markets, it is a useful time to look at what we can learn from customer data.

Firstly, the idea that an online shop is a like-for-like replacement for a traditional weekly grocery shop is mostly untrue. Some customers do this, but for the majority of shoppers - in every market - online forms part of a mix of options. In fact, looking at categories those customers are favouring, it is obvious some are those that have an affinity towards certain channels and display massive over-indexing for spend and penetration.

Secondly, the established image of the online grocery shopper is surprisingly inaccurate: often portrayed as a busy parent or a tech-savvy young urbanite. While this may have some truth in nascent or emerging markets, the story globally is a move towards the mainstream. In established markets, the online shopper increasingly looks exactly like any other shopper - just one who has made different choices about the channel in which they transact.

Thirdly, even within categories exhibiting strong performance online, there is huge variation between brands and specific sub-categories. Some brands are losing the online battle - even as the category in which they operate online grows above the offline base, these brands are under-indexing. The mechanics and category management disciplines look very different online to offline and it is apparent some brands are capitalising on this knowledge gap, while others are suffering as a result.

Finally, the path to purchasing online is a very comprehensible one; and the data exists with which to understand it. What is surprising is how much variation there is between brands and even within fairly narrow categories. So some brands will gain most of their conversions from search, some through favourites, others via special offers. Only through understanding these can brands seek to work with categories to optimise and personalise the customer proposition.

Jason Nathan is global multi channel capability director at Dunnhumby