News • 10.05.2022

Grocers miss opportunities by not showing alternatives as “out-of-stock” messages increase

How the pandemic has impacted online grocery shopping and how consumers respond to grocer recommendations and decreased inventory

An empty shelf in a store
Source: wesleyphotography / Unsplash

Lucidworks, a provider of next-generation AI-powered search applications, surveyed consumers in the U.K. and U.S. who shop for groceries online. 

The survey revealed that only 28% of shoppers are being offered alternative recommendations every time an item they want is unavailable, meaning grocers and third-party apps are leaving money on the table. Additionally, shoppers are seeing increased “out-of-stock” messages online during the pandemic but are open to purchasing recommended substitutes.

Relevant recommendations require grocers to understand a wide range of consumer preferences including dietary restrictions, price fit, and brand loyalties for each individual shopper. The survey report outlines consumer preferences and behaviours around online grocery shopping during the pandemic.

Shoppers stay for recommended substitutes

Respondents said that “out-of-stock” instances have increased both online and in-store during the pandemic. 58% of respondents say that they frequently or at every visit find that a preferred grocery item is unavailable online. Nearly a third of shoppers will stay on the same site or app to look for a substitute if they can’t find the specific item they’re looking for. However, shoppers identified some items that were non-negotiable. Roughly 90% of shoppers shared at least one item that they would never buy a substitute for based on ingredients, preparation and brand. 

Inventory-based notifications win sales

More than half of respondents said that a low-in-stock notification would influence their purchase decision, and 80% of those shoppers would be more likely to make the purchase if they were alerted when items were low-in-stock. Intelligent push-based notifications will continue to serve as a powerful tool to keep shoppers loyal and coming back for more. 66% of respondents prefer to be notified via email when an item is back in stock and 44% of shoppers prefer to receive those notifications via text. 

Smarter search guides shoppers to in-stock items

Only about a quarter of shoppers say that sites are making alternative recommendations every time an item they want is unavailable. 11% of shoppers reported that they rarely see recommendations for substitutes and usually end up on a “no results” page. This means lower average order value and a hit to customer loyalty. Smart search and filtering, relevant recommendations, and displaying what’s in-stock (versus “out-of-stock” or “no results”) keep customers clicking into grocers’ online stores.

Other key findings in the survey include:

  • 83% of online shoppers in the U.K. prefer to have groceries delivered.
  • 59% of shoppers buy groceries directly from a grocer’s website versus a third-party app.
  • Nearly half of shoppers will shop with a different grocer if they can’t find what they need on their preferred app or website.
  • 20% of shoppers want an item they like to be automatically added to their online cart when it comes back in stock.

The Lucidworks survey was conducted in March of this year and limited to respondents who shop online for groceries at least once a month. 402 respondents located in the U.K. and 401 respondents located in the U.S. participated.

You can download the full survey here.

Source: Lucidworks

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