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Online food shoppers balance priorities

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Online grocery shoppers may not be exactly who we think they are, a new study suggests.

Although they do tend to have higher salaries than their brick-and-mortar shopping counterparts, for example, it turns out that U.S. online grocery shoppers are not just members of a leisure class who shop from home because it’s easier and they don’t mind paying for the privilege.

A recent dunnhumby Consumer Trends Tracker report found that while omnichannel shoppers spend 1.5 times more on groceries than in-store-only shoppers, they are also less loyal and are often financially pressed.

These shoppers spread their online purchases among twice as many different retailers as brick-and-mortar-only shoppers do. And households that shop online are 6% more likely to say they have skipped a meal or cut its size for financial reasons, and they are 10% more likely to say they would have difficulty covering an unexpected expense.

“What really stands out in this report is that while 60% of all households with children are doing some of their shopping online and despite being higher earners on average than brick-and-mortar-only shoppers, they are struggling more financially, and some reported they have had to skip or cut back on meals,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby. “This indicates an evolution from the orthodoxy that the online and omnichannel shoppers value convenience above all and are not price sensitive. This study suggests that is not always the case.”

The study found that omnichannel shoppers were just as likely as brick-and-mortar-only shoppers to rate low prices as very important. But in-store shoppers are twice as likely to choose a store because of prices. According to dunnhumby, this is because the average omnichannel shopper is more likely to have children or pets, and has to budget their time as carefully as they budget their spending.

The vast majority of the 45% of consumers that shop for groceries online are omnichannel shoppers, the report found. Their monthly average grocery spend is $594 per month compared to $388 for in-store-only shoppers. But online shoppers spread their dollars across a greater number of retailers monthly — between 3.9 and 6.6 stores per month compared to 3.2 for in-store only.

Another interesting finding was that brick-and-mortar-only shoppers can also be digital customers, even if they never buy their groceries online. Almost 20% of current in-store-only shoppers do interact with their retailer’s app. They use it predominately to browse the weekly ad/circular, check their rewards points and available coupons, and make lists or plan their shopping trip.

Dunnhumby has also released its inaugural eCommerce Retailer Preference report, which identified H-E-B as the nation’s top online grocer. (See story on page 4.) Retailers who want to ascend that ranking should first read this report about who’s shopping online, and why.


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