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Kevin Huck

By: Kevin Huck on November 24th, 2020

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Use Smarter Product Data to Improve the Grocery E-Commerce Shopper Experience for Competitive Advantage

The number of consumers in the U.S. who are shopping based on personal need-states such as diets, allergies, and health-related wellness preferences has risen dramatically over the last few years. Today, an estimated 200 million Americans follow some type of health and wellness program, and an estimated 180 million Americans have food allergies that affect the way they shop. And 55% of shoppers now say allergies or intolerances affect how they shop, up from 44% in 2018. 

The industry has seen a dramatic shift from brand loyalty to personal priority loyalty. According to OneSpace, 81% of grocery searches on Amazon are unbranded. Today’s shoppers are no longer satisfied with products that are misaligned with their values and needs. 

Whether it’s fair trade, cruelty-free, heart smart, gluten-free, or any other attribute related to consumer need-states, shoppers are searching for products and buying them differently today. And with access to a nearly infinite array of products through dozens of prominent online retailers, they have plenty of options. Let’s look closer at the state of today’s online grocery customer experience and how retailers can leverage data and technology to gain a competitive advantage. 

The State of the E-Commerce Grocery Shopper Experience

Retailers, on the whole, are failing to respond to online shopping trends. In a recent audit of the 30 top e-commerce retailers, we found that shoppers who are searching for products to meet specific dietary, medical, allergen, and value-based needs are presented with sparsely-stocked “digital aisles” on most e-commerce retail sites.

Of the 30 top retailers audited, only 21 had any form of search filtering enabling attribute-based searches (such as “gluten-free” and “keto”). Those that did offer filtering capability missed including 80% of the most commonly-searched attributes in their filters. As a result, retailer websites failed to return an average of 92% of the products in their assortment that qualified based on the term the customer searched.

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Additionally, the chart to the right identifies the 25 consumer food and beverage need states and preferences based on the highest organic search volume. For each attribute, we uncovered the percentage of audited retailers with the advanced filter present as well as the average percent of missing products that qualify. 

For example, 68% of retailers include a Gluten Free filter, yet on average 44% of qualifying products fail to be returned. Additionally, the attribute “fat free” is present at 40% of retailers, but on average those retailers fail to return 86% of qualifying products. Or take Atkins, which just made it into the top 25, yet no retailers include an advanced filter for the Atkins today.

The Solution: Leverage Data and Technology

The data shows that retailers need to adapt to how the modern consumer searches for products. Specifically, they must change how they’re handling search, taxonomy, and product detail page content and provide the attribute-based search filter functionality that consumers expect to return quality results for any given search. 

We have more product and shopper data available today than ever before. And thanks to modern technology, this data can be used to allow customers to find what they’re looking for quickly. Let’s examine what you can do with a combination of data and technology.

  • Identify Which Products Qualify for Which Search Terms
    Learn what products qualify for various attributes and find out what customers are looking for so you can return more products in filtered searches. Using an auto-refreshing API feed of every qualifying product and attribute associated with each product, you can ensure full visibility.  
  • Better Target Product Recommendations 
    You can use behavioral data to show more relevant product recommendations. For example, if you know that a customer has specific requirements (such as “peanut-free” or “organic”), you can show recommended products that qualify for those attributes. 
  • Improve Product Replacement
    Also using behavioral data, you can ensure that product substitutions are acceptable. If you offer grocery delivery service, like Instacart and Whole Foods Market, a shopper buying based on specific need-states (such as “vegan”) will likely only be happy with a product substitution that also qualifies (another vegan product). 
  • Prepare for the Future
    Because consumer trends are always changing, you need to ensure that shoppers will be able to find the products they’re looking for, no matter what term they search. Using technology integrated into your platform, you can auto-update your product data with terms related to new diets and other trends via algorithms that automatically identify which attributes are applicable. 

Because few retailers are taking advantage of this data and technology, you have an opening to gain a competitive advantage over others. As online shopping continues to become more popular, you’ll be established as the go-to retailer your customers can trust for products that match their needs and preferences. Take action to improve your online customer experience, the time is now. 

Read Empty Aisles: The Grocery Shoppability Audit to see key research findings and learn how, by implementing effective product attribute-based search filter functionality, you can improve your customer experience and gain a competitive advantage.

About Kevin Huck

As a Software Architect at Label Insight, Kevin Huck designs and builds distributed, scalable, and fault-tolerant systems. Kevin specializes in building complex software that marries data science, traditional engineering, and vetted, cutting-edge technology.