Two loaves of bread but no jar of peanut butter? That spells a pretty tasteless sandwich for some unfortunate consumer - but potentially a whole menu of opportunities for food retailers, according to Karen Bells of Colloquy, who here explains why this apparently simple opportunity goes far beyond selling someone a jar of peanut butter.
Retailers have a chance to become more deeply embedded in the decision-making and menu-planning for a growing and powerful segment - the shared-shopper household. That's a household wherein several members perform the grocery shopping, although not always in alignment.
For grocers, that means, among other challenges, helping these households streamline and coordinate trips to avoid duplicates ("You bought bread also?") and oversights ("I thought you got peanut butter yesterday!?"). Data from loyalty programmes is an essential tool, the trick is parlaying it into the insights and communications that will get the job done.
A Dramatic Change
It's a trend food retailers can't afford to ignore, said Susan Borra, senior vice president, communications and strategic planning for the Food Marketing Institute. She called the increasing move to a shared-shopper model "truly the most unique and dramatic change we've seen" in the 40-plus years FMI has conducted its annual "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends" survey.
FMI - whose members operate 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies - recently unveiled the results of its 2015 survey of 2,200 U.S. adults, done in conjunction with research firm the Hartman Group.
The revolution in the American home, from matriarchy to democracy, has reached its zenith, said Hartman Group CEO Laurie Demeritt. The one-person-does-all model has been replaced by one where multiple people, perhaps even all members of the household, participate in decisions about food, planning, shopping and cooking.
A full 83% of U.S. adults - 203 million people - identify themselves as the primary shoppers in their homes, doing at least 50% of the grocery shopping. That makes for more self-identified "primary" shoppers than there are actual U.S. households (123 million), a contradiction that further illustrates the need for food retailers to cater to an increasingly complex and fractured shopping audience.
Here, a little more on the shared-shopper reality as well as several other survey revelations.
We're All in It Together
With the shared-shopper model the new norm, retailers have a real opportunity to help people communicate with each other to understand other purchases made for the household and provide help for food planning, preparation and cooking, said Borra.
The distribution of duties can be complex and fluid, split along several criteria. Responsibilities can be divided by occasion (one buys for meals, another for parties), by eater, by food type or other categorizations. One person might be the "search-and-retrieve" buyer, taking on "pick up the milk" type of duties. Or two people might work together to plan meals, make lists and split shopping trips.
Retailers can tap into these trends by curating selection to cater to different roles and responsibilities, using loyalty-programme data and other analytics to better track household purchases and identify gaps and trends, and communicating to co-shoppers in a coordinated fashion.
That's easier said than done, said Mark Heckman of retail strategist firm Mark Heckman Consulting. Even some of the best loyalty-marketing programmes in the supermarket channel, he said, have not successfully mastered this level of data customization and marketing for shared-shopper households.
"This is a tricky area, especially if the veracity of the data is not high or there isn't a strong methodology to accurately determine the identification and the roles of shoppers within a single household and keep it updated as households evolve or disband," Heckman said. "For grocers that get it right: When one co-shopper buys items for dinner, for example, the other could receive real-time notification. And co-shoppers could have access to each other's recent purchases, sorted by date, by category or by event. The possibilities abound."
What's for Dinner?
The 2015 survey points to another trend... We tend to wait till the last minute to decide what to eat. In fact, 63% of eating occasion food choices are decided within an hour of consumption. Those between 18 and 36 are least likely to create shopping lists or plan ahead, preferring to wing it.
This trend, too, creates opportunity for retailers to influence behaviour through in-store displays, dynamic marketing that suggests meal ideas or promotes store specials based on the customer's location or the time of day, and help with recipe planning and cooking tips.
People tend to equate last-minute food decisions with a time-starved public, said Demeritt, but there is another major factor: It's a foodie culture, and people have more fun getting inspired spur-of-the-moment by a blog, a mouth-watering photo on Pinterest or Instagram or a cooking TV show.
"We want to, at the last minute, decide, 'What do I want today?' We want to sort of browse a website and work backward from there," she said.
Having ready access to past purchase data - by department, category and even specific items - can make it easier for retailers to help shoppers act on a whim, said Heckman, and thoughtfully designed and curated loyalty-marketing programmes can provide lots of relevant data.
The rise of whim shopping is likely to continue, Demeritt said, and food retailers must continue to adjust.
Retailers should take note of several other trends, according to Borra:
- Americans' eating occasions are now 50% traditional meals and 50% snacking.
- 77% of all eating occasions involve at least some prepared foods.
- In 2015, 9% of those surveyed said they had no primary store, up from 2% in 2011. "While the number isn't huge," said Borra, "we probably need to think about what's going on there" with store loyalty.
"While there is plenty of room for retailers to refine their customer interaction, consumers continue to rate them as trusted resources and "look to them for information, inspiration and curated solutions to their food needs," concluded Borra.