How the Online Shopper navigates websites to select grocery products

Did you know that 53% of products are selected from the online shopper’s ‘favourite items’?

This statistic, taken from a recent report by Dunnhumby, shows that the typical online shopper’s primary aim is to shop for their core grocery items and repeat this process each time. These shoppers are what we call ‘mission shoppers’. The mission of the new mum who shops online, for example, is to purchase baby foods and nappies once a week. Therefore, she is not very likely to navigate the entire website and browse for new items to add to her basket.

So the big question for brands that want to take advantage of the industry’s fastest growing channel and increase their online sales is:

How can my brand’s product become one of the mission shopper’s ‘favourite items’? First and foremost, it is important that your brand is highly visible when the online shopper searches for a product via the search engine. According to the same report by Dunnhumby, 31% of grocery products selected online are via the search engine. When I search for ‘juice’ on Waitrose’s website, for example, the first two rows of results show me three brands - Tropicana, Grove and Waitrose’s own brand:

Whereas, when I search for ‘juice’ on ASDA’s website, the first two rows of results show me three different brands – Capri Sun, Innocent Drinks and ASDA’s own brand:

The online shopper is not likely to scroll through the pages of results to find a suitable product when they use the search engine, so consistently having high product visibility across retailer websites will be important if you don’t want your brand to lose out against your competitors. Tropicana (PepisCo) is loosing out to Innocent Drinks on ASDA's website and Innocent Drink's is loosing out to Tropicana on Waitrose's website.

Another key difference between these two pages is the advert for a promotion on Heinz baked beans on the right hand side of ASDA’s website, compared to the blank space on Waitrose’s website. This advert is an attempt to translate the in-store impulse purchases to the online store by tying in with products that might be associated with juice – such as other breakfast items. This is called ‘targeted online advertising’ and brand's need to decide how much of their digital marketing budget should be spent on this. There seems to be a lack of information shared between the retailer and supplier on what the actual return on their advertising investments are. According to Dunnhumby's report, only 6% of grocery products online are selected from adverts or promotions, which raises the question, is Heinz's actually selling more baked beans on ASDA's website as a result of this advert?

It is clear that the path the online customer takes to select a product and place it in their checkout basket is fundamentally different to their in-store shopping experience. Brands will need to understand the entire online customer journey and shopping behaviour to learn where their digital investments should be prioritised and, ultimately, to get their fair share of the grocery industry’s fastest growing sector.

Julian Highley, the Director of Customer Knowledge at Dunnhumby, will be outlining how the online shopper navigates grocery retailer website to find products at My Digital Grocery Shelf 2015 (18th June 2015, London). He will be joined by Gavin Chappell, VP of E-commerce at ASDA and Richard Luck, Manager of Online Selling and Trading at Waitrose, who will be showing brands how they can ensure their product is highly visible on their websites and, consequently, how they can increase their online sales. For full information on the agenda and speaker line-up for the event, visit the website here or contact me directly on

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