Shopper Insights, Buyer Journey

  |   8 Min Read

The Grocery Shopper's Path to Purchase Is a Digital One

To better understand the shopper and situate marketing efforts into the most effective configuration, we must understand the incentives that drive consumers, and become intimate with their day-to-day shopping habits. This type of insight is critical to ensuring that the right information gets into the hands of the shopper via the right medium, at the right time.


We followed 500 shoppers who regularly frequented 9 major retailers on 1,177 grocery trips to track their behavior. Individuals were asked to install our ZQ Intelligence™ tracking software on their PCs and mobile devices to track their visits to mobile apps, search engines, and social networking sites, as well as other online activities. Also included were weekly surveys to capture information about in-store trips, and hosted online community sessions to gain information on their perceptions and behavior with regard to retailer-specific tools.


According to our findings, 84% of consumers use a retailer site or app for general shopping. And it seems that these consumers are turning to the internet to seek out ideas for their next meal via recipe sites, and health and fitness apps. Of these shoppers, 60% visited a cooking or recipe site for ideas, while 58% used a health and fitness app. Surprisingly, only 27% visited a coupon and discount offer site, proving that the way to a consumer’s heart is through their actual meal planning.

Shoppers tended to plan their trips from home PCs (37%) vs. smartphones (28%) to take advantage of a larger screen, faster speeds, and a lower data cost. Of the shoppers surveyed, 46% used a digital device to plan their shopping trip, and 18% used a mobile app.


Even though digital coupons are beginning to catch up with their paper counterparts — 26% use paper while 15% use online coupons  29% of shoppers still use a handwritten shopping list.  Only 15% of the shoppers surveyed used a mobile phone to assist them on their shopping trip. Of these, 49% looked for digital coupons, 42% took advantage of a digital grocery list, and 34% scanned barcodes while they were shopping. Another 31% read the weekly ad or store circular, and 26% compared prices at different retailers. Only 10% of these shoppers paid for their trip using their phones, proving that mobile methods of payment are still fighting to gain traction.


13% of shoppers visited a discount app after their shopping trip to redeem offers and further compare pricing. 12% participated in a retailer survey, 10% logged into a website to review loyalty points, and 7% turned to social networking to post about their purchases. These statistics indicate that shoppers take pride in their shopping, and need to feel that they are getting a good deal on their purchases. Of the general shopping population, Hispanics were more likely to use all forms of discounts, and shoppers between the ages of 35 and 44 with children did more avid couponing than other groups.


Per study data, the best time to engage the consumer was 3 days prior to their shopping excursion, and visits to retailer websites and apps were most often made on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Consumers most frequently visited these sites and apps between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and 8-11 p.m. This data suggests that boosting marketing efforts during these time slots would increase the chance of visibility and connecting with the consumer. In addition, as consumers turn to health and fitness apps, as well as recipe websites, for their ideas, marketing targeted towards these avenues could help improve a retailer’s connection with their audience.

Shoppers still use pricing on shelves (38%), overhead in-store signs (21%), and store circulars (18%) to choose their products, indicating that marketers shouldn’t abandon these methods of communication altogether. And even while digital coupons are starting to catch up with paper coupons, being used by 15% of shoppers in comparison to paper coupons that are used by 26% of shoppers, many customers still rely on non-digital items such as handwritten shopping lists (29%).  Moreover, digital tools can prove to be problematic on shopping trips. Users may experience unreliable wireless connections, challenges locating the products they have on their purchase lists, and a lack of universal manufacturer coupon acceptance. This makes traditional communication methods critical to closing the gap.

The digital world of grocery shopping is still young, but its growth is evident in the increasing availability of online shopping tools, and the ordering habits of the consumer. Digital shoppers tend to perpetuate their online interaction within the store itself. This offers retailers a chance to connect and communicate with shoppers, and even encourage them, while they are standing directly in front of their products.

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