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Know the types of shoppers who buy produce online

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Retailers know they will have more success the better they know their customers.

When it comes to online grocery, it’s even more important because they’re trying to appeal to a segment of their existing customer base.
“Chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Pineapple or pepperoni on pizza. Consumers have tastes and preferences, often times strong ones,” says Tom Barnes, CEO of Category Partners.

“Understanding those preferences can be make or break for the local ice cream shop, pizza place or any business for that matter. Our industry is no different. We need to understand and appreciate who our customers are, what they need and want and why. Otherwise, we are simply trying to sell vanilla to chocolate lovers,” he says.

While customer demographics vary store to store, banner by banner and region by region, we now have a better idea of the segments who use online grocery options more than others.

So, what demographics should retailers appeal to among the 42 percent of shoppers who buy fresh produce online?

Category Partners has the answers in two consumer surveys.

Blue Book Services has teamed up with Category Partners to dig into the surveys and help our readers understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and how they can attract consumers most effectively, in a series, Online Produce Shopping: The Path Forward.

Online produce shopping finds more success in heavily populated urban areas. The surveys show that 65 percent of consumers living in cities larger than 250,000 buy produce online.

Also, as one would suspect, demographics favor younger shoppers. For the age range of 25-44, 69 percent of these shoppers buy produce online.

It also skews toward higher income consumers. The survey shows 65 percent of consumers with annual household income of more than $100,000 buy produce online.

As far as gender goes, 52 percent of men buy produce online (compared to 32 percent of women), and 69 percent of consumers with children in the home order produce with their computers or smartphones.

“For years marketers segmented their target consumers into primary, secondary and, maybe if they had sizable budgets, tertiary groups,” says Joe Vargas, director of marketing and analytics at apple/pear/cherry producer First Fruit Marketing.

“Today, that is not the reality of the consumer landscape. There are multiple groups of primary consumers who shop across multiple channels.”

“The stereotypical primary consumer profile has traditionally started out with ‘women’ as the first descriptor. As we reviewed the research findings, it was interesting and a little bit surprising to find that male shoppers factored more substantially into the online channel,” he says.

“This is evidence that we as marketers cannot take a one-size-fits-all, across all channels, approach to marketing our products,” Vargas added.

When it comes to that younger group of shoppers, one of the biggest factors in choosing one retail banner over another depends on speed of delivery.

While shoppers over 45 don’t buy produce online as often as younger shopper, they place higher value on trust when choosing a retail brand or store, so a retailer’s commitment to high quality and delivering what they promise is a way to differentiate.

Regardless of age range, online produce shoppers value convenience and speed, which leads to higher demand for value-added products that bring a higher ring.

“At First Fruits Marketing, we have worked and continue to refine our product offerings, particularly in the bagged apple and pear space,” Vargas says.

“We are working to create win-wins for retailers and consumers by offering popular and proprietary varieties in convenient bags. Our aim is to deliver pack sizes that drive a bigger ring for retailers while at the same time giving consumers a combination of reduced cost per pound, along with the convenience of the grab-and-go bag format.”

“We continue to work with retailers and execute research like this study to ensure we have the right bag style, relevant information on the packaging and optimize the pack size(s) to meet consumers where they live,” he says.

About the surveys
Category Partners conducted an internet survey in May 2021 of 3,000 U.S. online produce consumers. The survey used a nationally-representative sample by region of the U.S.

Consumers were screened to include only shoppers who regularly shop for produce online.

Then, Category Partners conducted a second 3,000-respondent survey of the general population to determine how many U.S. shoppers currently buy produce online and which demographic groups are more likely to buy produce online. Category Partners was able to ask non-users why they do not shop online and what might get them to try online shopping.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services