Delivering Frictionless Commerce:

Online Grocery Experiences That Meet Consumer Expectations

ARTICLE
BY Sara Plavsic

Digital offerings and technologies are transforming the way we interact with brands and services across every industry. Mobile banking options, digital ride-share programs and same-day product delivery platforms have revolutionized the industries they now dominate. The bar has been raised for seamless customer experiences, with the grocery sector as perhaps the most evident example.

Grocers, as an essential service, have transformed their offerings to meet the needs of their customers over the past year under new and constrained circumstances. The willingness of customers to try new offerings, and the need for brands to offer more efficient and optimized experiences, have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic; and these rapidly changing expectations are providing grocers with a new opportunity to build customer loyalty with a frictionless grocery shopping experience.

To better illustrate the current high bar for today’s consumer expectations, we’ve traced a typical consumer journey through an online grocery shopping experience. As outlined in our recent report, 2021 Delivering Frictionless Commerce, our research has identified six dimensions that brands need to deliver on, in order to deliver a truly frictionless commerce experience, and build loyalty and affinity among their customers. These dimensions include:

  • Fulfillment & Multi-Channel Alignment
  • Security & Payment Options
  • Ease of Access, Design & Navigation
  • Personalization
  • Positive Friction
  • And Customer Service

It is through the lens of these six essential dimensions that we will explore the online grocery experience.

Let’s begin.

Meet Adi, a 36-year-old resident of Hamilton, Ontario. Adi is an early adopter of technological innovation; he’s willing to try new products, services or experiences, is driven by novelty, and often revels in the spontaneity of doing things differently. To gain a better understanding of how frictionless the grocery shopping experience is, we’re going to follow Adi’s e-commerce journey with a major Canadian grocery brand.

Need

The consumer searches for reasons and motivations for additional awareness around the service in order to fulfill a need.

Fulfillment & Multichannel Alignment
Adi’s immediate need for using this e-commerce grocery offering was largely propelled by not wanting to venture in-store during COVID-19, but his primary motivation was convenience. Adi was hoping to get a little more time back into his day. Expectations were high.

Positive Friction and Personalization
His secondary motivation was fuelled by an excitement to experiment with new service offerings. Adi is always looking for a reason to switch to e-commerce offerings completely; and actively seeks out new products, services and experiences relevant to his needs.

Discovery

The consumer forms their first impressions of the product or service, and the experience.

Personalization
Having shopped with this brand regularly, Adi was happy to see that a grocery retailer he was familiar with offered a delivery service option – making the connection feel more personalized, given that he had an existing relationship with the brand.

Positive Friction
As an existing rewards card user, he discovered the offering through a push notification on his rewards app, where he instantly thought the offering was “a great way for me to save time and stay safe” under current COVID-19 pandemic circumstances. This moment of positive friction reinforced his original need by providing additional awareness around the delivery and curbside pickup offering.

Ease of Access, Design & Navigation and Fulfillment & Multichannel Alignment
However, even though Hamilton is a sizeable city hub in Ontario, Adi’s physical location limited his ability to have a fully utilized multi-channel experience, as the home delivery service was not available in his area. This is where a third-party e-commerce delivery vendor was introduced into the service offering in order to complete the experience.

Consideration

The consumer rationalizes why they should participate or proceed with the service or experience.

Ease of Access, Design & Navigation
Although Adi was disappointed in not being able to have groceries delivered directly to his doorstep, he chose to continue with the experience and explored the curbside pickup option instead. The e-commerce website and app were described as being “easy and intuitive to navigate.”

Personalization
As Adi was considering his options, the product recommendations on this brand’s website were personalized and relevant to his preferences, since the offering used Adi’s existing rewards profile to tailor previously purchased products to him.

Positive Friction
The efficiency of being served relevant product recommendations allowed him to get a little time back into his day by not having to browse the website for a long period of time. At this point, we come back full circle to Adi’s original desire for convenience – and the decision is made to proceed with curbside pickup.

Action

The consumer is using the service and thinking about the experience.

Ease of Access, Design, and Navigation,
The actual e-commerce grocery experience is efficient, easy and painless – although there’s always room for improvement. As a habitual shopper, Adi doesn’t like to plan out his meals in advance, and felt that the e-commerce offering lacked a source of inspiration to help him plan out a meal, due to a lack of an easy way to search for available meal ideas.

Security and Payment Options and Fulfillment and Multi-Channel Alignment
The e-commerce offering, if selected, stores previously purchased product and credit card information – which, in Adi’s eyes, was a useful and efficient system that really helped to speed up the process.

Customer Service
Upon completion, a customer service representative confirmed the order; and when it was time for curbside pickup, there was a representative – in-person at the storefront location – ready to help him complete his order.

Effect

The customer reflects on if they have fulfilled, met or exceeded their original need by using the service; and the impact it’s on their overall perceptions of the experience.

Security & Payment Options and Customer Service
Within moments of completing his curbside shopping experience, Adi received a digital receipt of the transaction.

Personalization and Positive Friction
Adi noted that the data from his existing rewards account could have been further utilized to personalize and enhance his overall e-commerce experience in the Discovery, Consideration and Action phases, leaving opportunities for this grocery brand to further grow his overall loyalty with the brand and improve the e-commerce experience.

Fulfillment & Multichannel Alignment
The grocery product fulfillment was accurate – everything he ordered arrived – and the curbside pickup experience was effective, helping him save a little time in his day for other things by not having to go in-store for his groceries.

Customer Service
All-in-all, the e-commerce grocery experience met Adi’s needs. What really made a difference was the customer service experience that provided him with a surprise ‘goodie bag’ free of charge with his order, including a selection of branded products to try out as a thank-you for shopping with this particular grocery brand.

As is clearly evident from this example, expectations are high in the online grocery space, especially when compared to where they were only a year ago. Our research uncovered that, specifically within the Food & Beverage category, consumers’ experience expectations differed between the website and mobile app experiences in the following two frictionless dimensions: Personalization (craving human interaction) and Positive Friction (craving a differentiated experience). Consumers who use Food & Beverage mobile applications are three times more likely to crave Personalization, such as a brand that “stores their preferences or cart options for a later date,” than when shopping with an online offering. On the other hand, when shopping online, consumers are three times more likely than they are on mobile applications to be receptive to Positive Friction, such as “recommending products that you might like to buy,” while they shop. Ultimately, within the Food & Beverage category, one-third of consumers on both platforms expect an e-commerce experience that shows “product information that allows them to envision what the product will look like in-person,” indicating that Ease of Access, Design & Navigation is vital to creating a frictionless e-commerce experience within the Food & Beverage space.

The COVID 19 pandemic has propelled an accelerated shift in customer expectations across all industries. Businesses need an actionable framework for understanding these changing expectations so they can deploy the best strategy to retain customers and drive engagement. Developing a data-driven understanding of where a consumer experiences the six frictionless dimensions, or a lack thereof, in their customer journey is essential to help address key barriers and encourage brand loyalty.

You can read more frictionless commerce insights in our recent report, 2021 Delivering Frictionless Commerce: A guide to understanding customer expectations and growing brand loyalty.

Insights included in this report were synthesized from over 3,800 interviews with North American consumers, conducted between August and October 2020. Topics covered include:

  • Consumer satisfaction across a range of sectors, including clothing and apparel, personal care, sporting goods, home furnishings and electronics, food and beverage, and more.
  • Industry-specific analysis of the drivers of brand loyalty by category.
  • Custom questions provided to subscribers.

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