Why shoppers are finding empty aisles online


Why shoppers are finding empty aisles online

Today, millions of U.S. consumers are shopping aisles online to satisfy personal health and wellness needs, around dietary requirements, food allergy restrictions, and more. An estimated 200 million Americans follow a health and wellness program, and about 180 million have food allergies that affect the way they shop.

At the same time, the pandemic has accelerated the popularity of online grocery shopping. Shoppers expect a seamless online search and purchase experience— are retailers meeting their expectations? 

What consumers are searching for

The past few years have seen a significant change in the “where” and “why” behind CPG buys. For a growing majority of U.S. shoppers, the “why” behind their purchases is closely tied to a growing list of lifestyle choices and health needs. This trend shows no sign of slowing, as 64% of U.S. shoppers currently follow a diet or health-related program, up from 49% in 2018.

Adherence to personal needs and values such as heart-healthy, sugar free, gluten-free, and sustainably made isn’t just growing, it is unseating brand loyalty as a reliable purchase driver.  In fact, the overwhelming majority (81%) of grocery searches on Amazon are unbranded. It is important to a growing cohort of consumers that CPG products align to their values and needs, and they have plenty of options at their fingertips. 

Enter the “how.”  

Online ordering isn’t anything new, but thanks to the pandemic, this technology adoption has skyrocketed. In June 2020, online grocery sales generated $7.2 billion in revenue, up from $1.2 billion in August 2019.  While COVID-19 might have accelerated the shift to online purchasing, it’s unlikely that these online shopping habits will go back to previous levels. 

The demand for personalization is rising as fast as consumer expectations of a seamless online grocery shopping experience. Shoppers expect to easily search, filter, find, and buy products that align with their lifestyle choices and wellness needs with minimal effort.

The empty aisles problem  

How are retailers adapting to these consumer trends? A recent study by Label Insight, a NielsenIQ company, audited the e-commerce experience of 30 top retailers to determine how well the “online aisles” are stocked for shoppers seeking products that meet specific dietary, medical, allergen, and values-based needs. The findings were revealing–while most retailers recognize the significance of these trends and have made moves to accommodate them, consumers are still finding inaccessible “digital stores” and empty “digital aisles.” 

Online search capabilities of most retailers aren’t robust enough to accommodate this influx of purposeful shoppers and their specific needs. While website navigation and search functionality issues factor into negative user experiences, the root cause is inaccurate and incomplete product attribute data. 

For example: A shopper with a dairy sensitivity will only see a “dairy free” filter on 36% of retail e-commerce sites. This filter will, on average, return less than one third of the products that qualify for that label. Shoppers with food sensitivities aren’t the only ones experiencing this issue. Current retailer systems fail to return 92% of the products that qualify for a filtered search. This disconnect leaves shoppers frustrated with a severely limited product selection, and retailers with fewer online transactions.

How do retailers stack up when stocking digital shelves

According to the study, retailers consistently struggle to connect shoppers with the products they’re searching for. Only 21 of the 30 grocery, health, beauty, and pet stores audited had any form of search filtering capability, a critical component for staying competitive in the online space.  Of the 21 retailers who offered attribute-related search filters, they overlooked 80% of consumer need-states and preferences. 

Additionally, many retailers audited failed to include attributes with the highest organic search volume. Of the 25 attributes with the most search volume, a filter only exists for that attribute 23% of the time. To see just how well retailers enable search for these top attributes, as well as the specific benefits that come with combining digital technology with product data, read the full report. 

Data provides a competitive advantage

The data is clear—retailers need to adapt to how the modern consumer searches for products.

Few retailers are taking advantage of the opportunity presented by today’s technology and available product data to provide better experiences for their customers. Retailers who access attribute data that is relevant to their products and implement advanced, attribute-based search filtering will increase revenue, generate greater customer loyalty, and have an opening to gain a competitive advantage over retailers who aren’t taking action.

Learn more about how to become a retailer consumers trust to deliver the products that match their needs and preferences.