More Americans Use Digital Tools to Ease Grocery Shopping

Consumers turn to technology to save money on their grocery bills
A woman on her phone in the kitchen

If you’re like many Americans, the grocery store is no longer simply a place you visit when it’s time to buy toilet paper and milk. In fact, a new study suggests that most consumers have a digital relationship with their grocery stores that has the potential to transform the entire shopping experience.

Many grocery outlets are leveraging technology to connect with customers virtually. A study by market research firm The Retail Feedback Group examined how shoppers are responding to those efforts by surveying 1,200 supermarket shoppers.

A majority of respondents—63%—use digital tools to interact with their supermarket, the study found. That’s up from 56% in 2017.

Most are using phone apps, websites and other digital tools to ease the shopping experience and possibly save money, as 55% of shoppers check out a digital circular before heading to the store. Circulars provide information on sales and specials available to shoppers during a particular period of time.

Nearly half of shoppers—47%—use apps to create shopping lists, while 44% use them to look for special promotions.

Grocery stores are also using digital tools to deepen relationships with their customers and their efforts appear to be working. Many shoppers are turning to their grocery stores not just to find weekly specials, but as a source of trusted expert advice. A quarter of shoppers use online information provided by their supermarkets to get recipes, 11% look to them for nutritional advice and 9% read blogs published by the supermarket.

Shoppers are less inclined to do their actual grocery shopping online. Nationally, 12% of shoppers say they order groceries online either for delivery or pickup. However, the prevalence of online shopping varies by location and age:

  • 18% of shoppers in urban areas order groceries online vs. 7% of shoppers in rural areas
  • 18% of millennials order groceries online vs. 6% of baby boomers

Households with three or more people and those with incomes higher than $100,000 were also more likely to order groceries online, the study found.

The study also looked at how consumers interact with their grocery stores on social media.

  • 30% follow their primary grocery store on social media, up from 25% in 2017
  • Shoppers are more likely to use Facebook, YouTube and Instagram than other channels
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to act on grocery shopping recommendations made on social media

Shoppers are also using social media to voice their opinions of their shopping experience, as 41% of shoppers praised an experience they had in a grocery store on social media while 22% have used social media to voice a complaint.

For Americans who are tethered to their smartphones, digital tools can bring convenience to the grocery shopping process, and they can also help consumers make better money decisions. Using digital tools to check prices and watch for sales lets you pinpoint the best time to make purchases. Likewise, creating a digital shopping list can keep you from making impulse buys. Once you recognize your spending habits, you can figure out how to make the technology work for you.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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