The connected shopper

Date : 05 December 2013
Last updated April 2013


Access to technology is changing shopper behaviour. Shoppers now have more information than ever, they are making more complex decisions, and they have greater expectations about their grocery shopping.

This has significant implications for the food and grocery industry. It means shoppers are now connected pretty much wherever they are and can do their weekly shop waiting for a train, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or even watching a football match. The ownership of smartphones has created a world without restrictions – and it’s one teeming with opportunity for savvy businesses. Understanding current levels of engagement will play an essential role in exploiting these opportunities. 

Shoppers are connected

While the term ‘connected shopper’ may sound futuristic, the vast majority of British grocery shoppers are now connected. Some of our recent research has shown growing levels of ownership of smartphones and tablet devices.

Growing levels of connectivity among shoppers

Growing levels of connectivity among shoppers

Source: IGD ShopperVista, October 2013

Smartphone and tablet ownership is growing at a rapid pace among British grocery shoppers – the availability of more affordable devices is driving this uptake.

This growing ownership of devices is helping to drive further growth in online shopping, but also shoppers’ engagement with brands for example via video, social media, access to greater price transparency and the ability to access content on-the-go. Brands need to ensure that their online information or website content is fully comprehensive to ensure shoppers can easily access the information they are looking for. This will help to drive greater engagement and loyalty with shoppers. 

Shoppers are most engaged in the pre-purchase phase

Levels of engagement with technology while grocery shopping are still relatively low, however, it is becoming established in the ‘pre-shop’ phase. This is particularly the case when shoppers are planning their shopping or looking for inspiration.

Online grocery planning is now established

Online grocery planning is now established

Source: IGD ShopperVista, October 2013

Almost a third (30%) of shoppers are using the internet before they go shopping to find which stores are offering the best food and grocery deals – up from 6% in 2010. The proportion of such savvy ‘online cherry pickers’ rises to 41% in 18-24 year olds, and almost half (48%) in shoppers with children under five.

Shoppers are also using technology to inspire them for meal ideas with almost half (47%) saying they are already looking up recipes online and 23% watching food channels using their mobile, tablet or computer. One fifth (19%) of shoppers tell us they are already using price comparison sites for their grocery shopping. 

Using technology in-store is limited to the trailblazers

However using technology in-store for certain activities remains an intangible concept for many shoppers. For instance, only one in ten (9%) shoppers say they are currently using mobile phones in-store to check if they can get a better price elsewhere. However, this rises to 25% among those who would like to do it in the future.

Use of mobiles in-store confined to trailblazers

Use of mobiles in-store confined to trailblazers

Source: IGD ShopperVista, October 2013

An even smaller proportion (3%) say they are currently using their mobile phone in-store to link up with other shoppers. For instance, being alerted by your phone to nearby shoppers who might be interested in buying similar products to you in order to take advantage of a group discount.

Use of technology in-store can feel like a leap into the unknown for many food and grocery shoppers, and some are even reluctant to explore it. While in-store price comparison and on-the-spot network buying may not necessarily appeal to shoppers at present, these concepts may become a feature of the supermarket of the future. To encourage your shopper base to engage with technology more in-store, it’s important to start by offering solutions that aim to make grocery shopping easier. 

The future

The internet is already influencing many food and grocery shoppers, particularly at the pre-shop phase of their journey. Shoppers are telling us they want technology to help them with saving money, recipe ideas and finding the best promotions. Those manufacturers and retailers that understand how their shoppers, categories and brands want to use online information and mobile tools, and develop a digital marketing strategy are best placed to optimise the impact of the digital revolution.