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The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) offered a preview of the findings of its 2012 U.S. Grocery Shopper trends research today in a presentation hosted by president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin at FMI2012 in Dallas. With a goal of helping retailers fine-tune their strategies for future growth, Sarasin identified and examined the implications of four significant and interrelated movements.
Backed by data provided by FMI research partner and global consulting firm Booz & Co., and employing video, social media and an expert panel of food retailers, the presentation focused on the importance of the following four trends, in advance of a broader FMI-Booz & Co. collaborative education series due in the coming months:
Value-seeking as a Way of Life: Consumers reacted to the recent recession by opting for private brands and less expensive food options, making fewer trips and buying fewer items at the supermarket, bargain shopping, and generally seeking value in their grocery shopping. Even consumers in segments not directly affected by the recession showed some of these behaviors. As the economy continues its slow recovery, research indicates these cost-cutting behaviors will stick around for a while, resulting in a “new normal” that has reshaped consumer shopper patterns.
Technology as a Fact of Shopping Life: More than half of all shoppers now use technology either before or during store trips. Much of this activity has to do with “value discovery” -- deals, coupons, price comparisons and the like. As technology progresses, an increasing number of customers will be able to easily find out the lowest prices for the items they want. In anticipation of this, retailers should employ online means to build relationships with customers.
Online Shopping Eating Away at Center Store: Despite the Webvan debacle more than a decade ago, online grocery shopping is making a comeback as niche online retailers carve out target categories. Sales numbers of these new players now equal those of full-line e-commerce grocers. Online “old-timers” also continue to chip away at key categories with simple searching and subscription purchasing. More than half of shoppers now purchase a grocery category online at least some of the time. As digital natives morph into household shoppers, this activity is likely to become much more common, spurring retailers to look for ways to better blend their bricks-and-mortar stores with their (or others’) online presence.
Format Innovation Pointing to New Differentiators: Over the past five years, the grocery industry has added about 150 million square feet of new capacity. None of that new space was built by traditional supermarket retailers; rather, it belongs to supercenters, dollar stores, drug stores, and other small formats such as fresh specialists and hard discounters. New formats continue to expand, making it more likely that the shopper of the future will have a range of options to meet any and all of his or her food retail needs. In this environment, retailers will seek ways to differentiate themselves via merchandise selection, value, convenience, in-store services, customer relationships, and any combinations of these attributes.
FMI, based in Arlington, Va., and New York-based Booz & Co. plan to issue a report detailing these trends, as well as a series of webinars.