As with all dreary January’s, there has been a prolonged period of both reflection on previous endeavours and future outlooks from both industry professionals and ‘Thought Leaders’ alike as they savour success, learn from failures and place their bets for the next 12 months and beyond.
Regardless of the many perspectives, it cannot be argued that 2019 was another transformative year for the online grocery industry as the improved accessibility to a multitude of platforms (traditional retailer/social-commerce/mCommerce) and the availability of product, connected to an expectation of convenience and personalisation for end consumers, continues to revolutionise the way we shop.
Based on the discussions that I have been lucky enough to be a part of (both brand and retail led) – continued transparency and personalisation will continue to drive activities across the supply chain throughout 2020.
Unsurprisingly ‘Health and Wellness’ continues to heavily trend. The definition of online base content continues to go through its own revolution with increased expectations of consumers and at the heart, an appetite for a deeper understanding of product provenance. Authenticity, healthy-swaps, lifestyle call-outs and sustainability claims related to a product’s make-up are easier to access than ever and not only will clean labelling and detailed product information impact this (reference the growing calls for Nutri-Score to be rolled out across the EU), the drive to evolve and innovate NPD to meet these needs will continue to accelerate.
The Food Marketing Institute shows that 76% of online grocery shoppers now expect more product information when shopping online than if they were in a physical store, and 72% believe getting product information is even more important when surfing the web than traditional brick and mortar experiences. It’s a huge number but reflective of the uniquely experiential and personalised moments that current generations expect from their screen (whatever the device) as opposed to the product that they engage with in person. In short, the value of transparency to consumers is more important than ever with the increased commoditisation of pack content giving way to the off-pack keywords/trends/buzzwords/rich assets that are becoming more increasingly the delineation between a buy/no-buy decision.
Many retailers are now offering personalised online nutritional aids that support complex dietary and lifestyle needs, finding the products consumers want with ease and speed. With current trends and advancements in technology, this is only going to evolve to support the conscious and sustainable consumer, seeking out food and ingredients that fit their health and wellbeing profile. That said, there are still a number of those that operate within the industry that needs to more broadly implement this within their content strategies. The number of debates that focus on why two images are better than one, why a video is more impactful than no video, or why bespoke marketing copy related to the unique make-up of that item is more influential than the generic pack data can be astounding. Content remains king and that weaved with a personalised experience (whether it relates to loyalty programmes, Product Detail Pages or Aisle Placement) will make the difference.
In terms of what next…. consumers will become ever more demanding, and therefore their minimum expectations will shift. As communicated at NRF – “data is the oxygen of retail’’ and technological advancements (AI / AR) plus more reactive data-driven pricing plans will result in fierce competition and regardless of whether this relates to acquisitions (recent trends suggest Pet Food + Health & Beauty is the focus here), the prominence of private label, more aggressive D2C strategies or net new vertical penetration… we will see the dissemination of business silos and instead of the centralisation of commerce and true omnichannel strategy with the objective of meeting the requirement of the day-to-day shopper.