Cleveland — Pre-pandemic, grocery ecommerce driven by convenience and engagement peaked among millennials and gen x — often in their career-building and family-rearing years. In 2019, less than 2 percent of Americans primarily shopped online and orders for the three in 10 Americans that occasionally purchased groceries online were an average of three weeks apart, according to a three-part research series exploring the impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and seasonal and everyday confectionery sales recently released by NCA.
The pandemic caused ecommerce engagement to leap about five years ahead, with 56 percent of Americans having purchased groceries online since its onset, the report found. While engagement is still highest among millennials and gen x, baby boomers started ordering online for a very different reason: safety concerns.
But while the engagement with online ordering has increased, the majority of dollars continue to flow through brick-and-mortar. Among survey respondents who do at least some online ordering, 63 percent said they mostly buy in-store, with an additional 21 percent saying they purchase in-store and online equally.
Multi-channel shopping behaviors dominate among today’s consumers. Investment in omnichannel retailing capabilities is critical and will demand more advanced channel management practices, including tailoring assortments, merchandising and promotions online and offline, notes Anne-Marie Roerink, founder of 210 Analytics.
Ecommerce has the big advantage of being able to deliver truly individualized experiences across all touchpoints and gather real-time intelligence to develop much more refined promotions or product recommendations based on buying habits, Roerink explains. Personalized marketing techniques and messages increase the chances of showing shoppers an “unexpected delight” they’ll want to buy — helping increase purchases beyond routine items.
The increase in the number of shoppers buying confectionery online translated into a doubling of online sales during the 26-week period ending September 6 versus year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI). Chocolate had the fastest growth, at 109.7 percent.
Executive summaries of NCA’s three-part research series on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on confectionery shopping behaviors are available online. The reports in their entirety can be downloaded by NCA member companies, Sweets & Snacks On Demand participants and select retailers at CandyUSA.com/COVIDReports.