Can Retail Dietitians Be Supermarkets’ Secret Weapon to Compete with Online?

Can Retail Dietitians Be Supermarkets’ Secret Weapon to Compete with Online?

July 20, 2016

By RDBA CEO Phil Lempert

Amazon, Instacart and meal kits like Blue Apron seem to be receiving the entire buzz in discussions about the future of online grocery.  Many food retailers have their big toe in the online water, but need to jump in with both feet and have their retail dietitian be their lifeguard.

With the growing number of online shopping options these days, the pressure remains for supermarkets to boost their own online presence. According to IBIS World data online grocery sales could advance $9.4 billion in 2017 – more than tripling the 3.0% yearly sales growth of the 2008-2013 period.   But as more supermarkets find ways to execute the online service we wonder how deeply they are looking beyond their immediate desire to fend off competitors. After all, we would suggest people are not going to be eating more, just shifting how and where they acquire their foods and beverages.

According to a new survey, more than half of online grocery shoppers say they are increasing the amount of total grocery shopping they do online. The survey was conducted by 72 Point Inc. and commissioned by online organic grocer Door to Door Organics.  Results showed that online shoppers increased virtual grocery shopping by an average of 29% over the last year and say that around 19% of their total weekly grocery shopping is done online. The majority of consumers still rely on the combination of online and brick-and-mortar stores to complete their weekly grocery shopping, but only 13% of survey respondents said a single store meets their weekly grocery shopping needs.  Thirty-four percent shop at two stores during a typical week, and 53% shop at three or more online and/or offline grocery stores each week.

"Pulse of the Online Shopper: A Customer Experience Study," research published by UPS, could help food retailers and retail dietitians sense what’s ahead in customer preferences and behaviors. For example, UPS challenges retailers to face satisfying today’s “flex shopper…[who] is ruthlessly efficient, switching channels and devices to best suit personal convenience when evaluating and purchasing products. Information and control are paramount, and retailers must offer near-perfect shopping experiences across every channel and device to thrive.” 

Yet food purchasing is a more emotional, more primal behavior than buying electronics, apparel or household goods; and as the UPS study shows, one key to online success is information, and what information is more important than helping a shopper live a healthier and better life? 

Our challenge, and the solution, is to create a hybrid model that offers the efficiency of ordering and delivery with the rich nutritional information and guidance offered at many in-store locations by retail dietitians through a combination of different old school and digital tools.  For those food retailers that have their own delivery, use Instacart or offer at store pick-up (which Bizrate/Commexity reports that 31% of online buyers used in the past year), having RD-created, printed material that is inserted with each order is just one simple idea that can promote nutritional messaging and bring people in-store for store tours and healthy culinary events. For those with an online and mobile device ordering dashboard, posting rotating timely nutritional information on the main homepage (and not sponsored) goes a long way to position your store’s health & wellness commitment. The information should be relevant and interesting based on purchase history, and not just an ad promoting the RD services that are offered.

Online grocery shopping is growing and here to stay. Our efforts should be directed towards understanding how to offer the shoppers the nutritional information and guidance that is important to their families’ lives with the convenience and speed that this new technology offers.