Who Buys Groceries Online?

A group of people, ranging in age, gender, and race, lined up side-by-side looking at different devices.

In the past year, grocery eCommerce has skyrocketed. As the fastest growing product category online, eGrocery sales jumped 35.4% from the year before, totaling almost $60 billion for 2018. Accordingly, the online customer base has risen from 23.1% to 36.8% between 2018-2019, when 35 million more consumers bought groceries online.

Obviously, statistics like that show enormous promise for eGrocery. But let's not forget the people behind the stats – the real, live men and women whose wants, needs, and behaviors make or break the entire industry. Only by understanding shoppers as people can grocers create true customer loyalty and grow their business, both online and in-store.

So who are the people buying groceries online?

By the numbers

According to Valassis' 2K19 Coupon Intelligence Report, the average modern shopper:

Photo courtesy of the Valassis’  2k19 Coupon Intelligence Report

Photo courtesy of the Valassis’ 2k19 Coupon Intelligence Report

  • Is more likely to be male than female

  • Has a household income of just over $80,000

  • Is between 18-44 years old

  • Is more likely than not to have children in the home

  • Wants to save time, access a wider variety of products, and save money. 

While eGrocery is picking up all over the globe, prime hotspots for online grocery are cities. 60% of urban shoppers say they have ordered groceries for home delivery, compared with less than 30% of rural and suburban shoppers. (Remember, though, that eGrocery services tend to be offered first in cities then rural areas, so these numbers reflect availability as much as consumer interest.)

Though useful, those facts and figures still don't give us a full sense of the people behind them. Let's dig even deeper for a more qualitative picture of today's online shopper.

Customer Personas

The Planners. These are your customers who love to plan every detail, optimizing even small activities for maximum efficiency. These folks plan their meals ahead of time, do a cost analysis of their per-plate expenses, and strategize how to maximize the ingredients they purchase. These customers might know the layout of your store, and organize their grocery list in order of how they'll walk through it. They're loyal, price-watchers, brand and ingredient researchers, and they love a good routine. They are more likely to be not working, part-timers, or flex schedulers. 

How to reach planners: Offer digital services such as meal planning and recurring purchases. Once planners understand that shopping online can save time, money, and effort, expect them to stick with it with the same vigor as their old routine.

The Busy-Bees or ‘Bustlers’. These are your customers who are busy-busy-busy. They work full-time, plus they have after-work obligations, whether it's their kids' soccer games or their own spin class. But busy bees also tend to value sitting down to a good meal, and they won't opt for fast food just out of convenience. This group is more likely to rush through your store as fast as they can, forgetting the item that actually brought them to the store in the first place. They don't set aside a certain day for shopping, but rather do it whenever it fits into their schedule. These shoppers are more likely to be tech savvy and less price sensitive, but also less brand loyal. 

How to reach busy bees: Emphasize the aspects of your business that will help them feel less frantic. If you offer a broad assortment of products, remind shoppers that they can get all their grocery needs met in one online trip, instead of shopping around. If you offer fulfillment options like home delivery or click and collect, let shoppers know how that fits into their busy schedule. 

Special Cases. This is anyone who has a unique condition that brings them to your online store. That could be something prevents them from traveling, such as an injury, lack of transportation, or an odd work schedule. Or maybe they require a supplement that's not sold in more stores, or they need a special ingredient for their new diet. Whatever the reason, online grocery appeals to these folks because it allows them to shop for non-mainstream products from anywhere. Special cases may or may not become regulars, depending on their circumstances – so make sure to put your best foot forward when you hear from them.

How to reach special cases: Market your digital services as flexible and far-reaching. That is, make it clear that you offer the widest array of fulfillment options and products around, and you're ready to cater to their unique needs. You can also woo special cases by offering coupons or discounted shipping rates for first-time orders.

The better you know your customer, the more equipped you are to cater to them, anticipate their needs, and establish lasting relationships. That kind of personalization will set your grocery business apart from the competition (and yes, that includes Amazon and Walmart).

To stay on top of trends like these in the ever-evolving world of eGrocery, subscribe to our blog below. To learn how locai can help you offer top-of-the-line digital services to planners, busy bees, and special cases alike, get in touch with us here.