CHICAGO – H-E-B narrowly edged out Amazon and Amazon Fresh to qualify as the nation’s top-ranked eCommerce grocery retailer, according to the inaugural dunnhumby eCommerce Retailer Preference Index (RPI).
In a comprehensive, nationwide study that examines the emerging $100 billion U.S. eCommerce grocery market, H-E-B narrowly edged out second-placed Amazon and third-placed Amazon Fresh in a near statistical tie to rank as the top-ranked eCommerce grocer. Walmart landed in the fourth spot and Sam’s Club rounded out the top five. Kroger, BJ’s and Sprouts had the next highest scores in the RPI, with all three finishing in the top tercile. The dunnhumby eCommerce RPI was released Wednesday as part of The dunnhumby Quarterly: a new multi-dimensional analysis of key retail trends with the first edition being focused on eCommerce, the company said.
“H-E-B’s impressive performance proves that it’s possible to compete and win against Amazon when it comes to grocery e-commerce,” said Grant Steadman, President of North America for dunnhumby. “Their success offers mid-size and regional retailers a roadmap on how to succeed online. H-E-B’s eCommerce journey goes back to 2015, when they first started with curbside pick-up, and they have since built up a powerful online ecosystem. The combination of a simple and easy-to-use shopping experience with a fantastic emotional connection with customers shows how grocers can thrive in this multichannel landscape.”
The overall RPI rankings are the result of a consumer survey-informed statistical model that predicts how retailers execute on the customer needs that matter most for driving eCommerce performance and emotional bonds with online shoppers. The eCommerce RPI methodology calculates eCommerce performance through a composite score of Change in Web Visits (2019 to 2021) from SimilarWeb, Share of Wallet Online, and Online Penetration of a Retailer’s Total Shopper Base. Retailers’ preference driver score and emotional connection score were gathered from a customized, online survey of 3,000 U.S. households that shopped online at least once in the 30 days prior to being surveyed. The five drivers of customer preference for eCommerce are: 1) owned digital asset usage, 2) ease and reliability, 3) substitutes, 4) product, 5) price.
Key findings from the study:
- H-E-B captured the top ranking in this inaugural study due to a number of factors, including boasting the highest level of emotional connection and online share of wallet among their customer base, out of all the retailers studied. Although they were relatively new to offering online shopping compared to Amazon and Walmart, H-E-B customers were the ones that migrated their spending online the most after the pandemic hit, increasing their grocery spending online by 27% which resulted in H-E-B having the highest share of wallet online.
- The eight top performing retailers in this study all have well-established eCommerce capabilities, and most of them also have scale and size as a key competitive advantage. Scale and size allows them to have more funds to invest in eCommerce and greater operational efficiencies. In addition, first tercile retailers have a clear strength in their own digital assets, versus relying mostly on intermediaries, having achieved a higher adoption with three out of five customers shopping on these assets during their last online trip. This has likely given retailers greater control over the customer online experience.
- Unlike the dunnhumby U.S. Grocery RPI that ranks prices as the most important customer preference driver, for eCommerce success the most important drivers are 1) owned digital asset usage and 2) ease and reliability because they have the strongest positive correlation with customer sentiment and eCommerce performance metrics. This means that banners that scored highest on these two drivers, also had the strongest emotional and eCommerce performance in this study. Walmart, Amazon and Amazon Fresh are the three top-ranked retailers for owned digital asset usage. Sam’s Club, Amazon Fresh and Aldi are the top three retailers for ease and reliability.
- Retailers who lean more heavily on intermediaries have lower scores for the ease/reliability customer preference driver, higher bounce rates, and fewer pages/visits. In these cases, customer loyalty is with the retailer, not the intermediary. Instacart, Shipt and Door Dash had lower emotional connection than nearly every grocery retailer measured.
- Omnichannel shoppers look very different than brick and mortar shoppers and are more likely to be motivated by caregiving of children and pets. Omnichannel shoppers, which can be up to 40% of all shoppers, are defined as customers who purchase with a retailer across multiple channels. Thirty-eight percent are between the ages of 25-54 and have at least two children. They buy online two times per month with three out of every five visits to a retailer grocer occurring online. On average they spend $531 per month across all the stores they shop and spend $131 per month – 25% of their share of wallet – with a single retailer. In contrast, brick and mortar only shopper is at least 50% of a retailer’s shopping base. Fifty-seven percent of them are 55 and up, and are either empty nesters, retirees or both. On average, these shoppers spend $382 per month across all the stores they shop and spend $111 per month – 29% of their share of wallet – with a single retailer.
- Covid accelerated grocery growth for eCommerce, but it may have just brought the grocery sector closer to its eCommerce sales ceiling at a faster rate, rather than raised the height of that ceiling. Rising inflation, a subsiding pandemic, and increased consumer mobility are putting the brakes on eCommerce growth.
The full RPI report is available for download here.