The rapidly changing dynamics in the grocery market are highlighted in “Food Shopper Insights,” a new report from Packaged Facts.

Jeffrey Woldt, Food Shopper Insights, Packaged Facts, David Sprinkle, Walmart Express

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Inside This Issue - Opinion

Grocery retailers need to follow the consumer

July 11th, 2011

The rapidly changing dynamics in the grocery market are highlighted in “Food Shopper Insights,” a new report from Packaged Facts.

Based on a survey of 2,000 consumers who purchased groceries within a 24-hour period, it shows that traditional mass market conceptions of shopper behavior in the segment no longer apply to a large segment of the population.

For many consumers, the days of routine stock-up shopping appear to be a thing of the past. Packaged Facts found that a large number of grocery shopping trips are designed to meet narrow goals. One in three respondents to the survey shopped to buy ingredients for a specific meal or recipe, one in five bought food in a grocery store instead of going to a fast-food outlet, and one in 10 shopped there simply because they were “hungry.” Fifty percent of all the consumers bought fewer than 15 items and spent less than $15 on their last trip.

The findings have important implications, both for supermarket operators and for other retailers with a presence in the food sector. As shopping trips and the reasons for making them increase, grocers need to rethink their approach to marketing, especially the heavy reliance on circulars. "With nearly four in 10 grocery shoppers frequently using social media and networking on mobile devices such as cell phones and smartphones, location-based shopping assistants and mobile devices may soon upend conventional approaches to in-store marketing," says Packaged Facts’ David Sprinkle.

Even more significant is the potential impact the evolving habits among grocery shoppers could have on the competitive balance in the field. More frequent, targeted trips will provide an opening for retailers in trade classes not traditionally associated with food to gain traction. Many drug chains and dollar stores have bolstered their consumables offerings in recent years, and the convenience provided by their small-format outlets could, in many cases, better meet the needs of time-pressed shoppers in need of a few specific items. The new Walmart Express format, which includes a large assortment of fresh food and grocery products, is similarly positioned to address the shifting consumer landscape.

Conventional supermarkets will have to develop effective ways to meet those same shopper needs or face further erosion of their business.