Is online grocery shopping the new going out?

Feb 26, 2021

Erik Wallin

We've all been stuck at home a great deal more than usual over the past year. One result of the pandemic has been a huge surge in online grocery shopping. This is driving publishers to think more and more like retailers. The result is an innovation boom in the digital retail space.

The boom in innovation follows one in online shopping. Consumers turned to online grocery retailers in their millions in 2020 due to the pandemic. Now, as trial becomes habit, eMarketer is projecting that online grocery sales will pass the $1 billion mark in 2021.

From affiliate models to contextual commerce

Publishers are doing all they can to capitalise on this growth, including racing to deliver new experiences. Mark Rogers, VP of Growth at Northfork, explains:

"Shopping is no longer about just filling a cart. Digital shopping can be relational and engaging. It can be fun. But delivering this needs to be more Pinterest than Shopify. Retailers need to offer a user experience that makes consumers' lives more convenient and more enjoyable."

Affiliate models are already evolving as part of this. Digiday reports that publishers are moving beyond links. Hybrid advertising and commerce models are changing the customer experience.

Then there's contextual commerce. This is where the fun really begins. Retailers are building the ability to make purchases into everyday activities. The consumer can buy with a simple voice command or click. It's convenient, it's easy and it's enjoyable. Going out has largely been cancelled, so retailers are making staying in more fun.

High stakes

Online retail margins are notoriously thin. There's everything to play for and retailers are taking it seriously. Walmart, for example, is investing $14 billion in 2021. Key areas of investment will include customer-facing initiatives and technology.

There are practical details to get right too. Consumers want to filter items by dietary preference. They expect category pages and search results to adapt based on their browsing and purchase history. The whole experience needs to mould around them. And it needs to do so anywhere and anytime. 

The consumer journey is shifting from offline to digital. Now, contextual commerce is taking that evolution to the next level.