IRI finds consumer confidence making big impact on e-commerce growth
64 percent of omnichannel growth due to e-commerce
While 2019 got off to a rocky start, with a partial government shutdown and trade challenges attributed to tariffs, consumers at the close of 2018 were buoyed by their strong household financial health and were spending accordingly. The latest IRI Consumer Connect survey results find that nearly 55 percent of consumers report their households were in good financial shape in Q4 2018, up 4 percent from Q3 2018 and 2 percent from Q4 2017. Hand-in-hand with consumer confidence is the growing and evolving e-commerce channel. In fact, 2018’s e-commerce sales increased by a whopping 35.4 percent, according to IRI’s new research, Consumer Confidence Reflected in E-Commerce Growth.
Consumers are increasingly comfortable with online purchasing, and retailers of all stripes are upping their online offerings, working to enhance the shopper experience with simple navigation, assortment, good values and delivery options.
“Millennial and Gen X consumers are more at ease with online purchases than older generations, and as e-commerce becomes more of a routine, those shoppers are migrating offline efforts to save money to their online practices,” said Joan Driggs, vice president of Content and Thought Leadership for IRI. “Online offers a lot of additional outlets for smart shopping, including easy comparison shopping and keyword search for more informed purchases.”
E-commerce sales are shining star of CPG omnichannel universe
E-commerce sales for the latest 52 weeks ending Dec. 30, 2018, were $58.9 billion, a 35.4 percent increase from a year ago. These sales account for only 11 percent of total CPG retail sales; however, e-commerce accounts for 64 percent of total omnichannel growth.
“Pure-play retailers garner more than half of all online CPG purchases, but traditional brick-and-mortar retailers continue to invest and win share of the e-commerce pie,” said Sam Gagliardi, head of e-commerce for IRI. “It is incumbent upon the future success of these traditional retailers to invest in the shopper experience both in-store and online.”
Non-food items, particularly personal care and home care products, are tops in online purchases. IRI E-Market Insights reports that vitamins, pet food and supplies, and skin care products are the top- selling items. Pet food and supplies are often bulky items that are inconvenient to purchase off store shelves. Vitamins, typically purchased for specific health benefits, are likely considered easier to shop for online through keyword search and with access to additional information.
Specifically, Q4 Consumer Connect survey respondents say buying online allows them to find lower-priced beauty and personal care product options — 29 percent of total U.S. consumers, 45 percent of millennials, 35 percent of Gen Xers, 27 percent of boomers and 14 percent of seniors. These results closely mirror thought on home care products, with 30 percent of total consumers, 43 percent of millennials, 36 percent of Gen Xers, 27 percent of boomers and 19 percent of seniors saying they find lower-priced options online.
While fresh and frozen items rank among the bottom of e-commerce sales categories, there are signs of significant growth, indicating that retailers — likely with the support of such flexible options as click-and-collect — are starting to crack the code on delivering fresh and frozen items via online.
Millennials and Gen Xers, the two generations most likely to find value in shopping online, are also the generations that report having the most difficulty affording needed groceries (34 percent of millennials, 36 percent of Gen Xers). More than half — 54 percent — of millennials and Gen Xers report they are less likely to make impulse purchases when buying online. With this in mind, e-commerce should be touted as a tool for helping shoppers stick to their budget. Overall, 50 percent of total respondents report they are less likely to make impulse purchases online, including 49 percent of boomers and 44 percent of seniors.
It’s no surprise that 38 percent of all consumers like ordering online and picking up in the store, because it is convenient and is a good way to avoid shipping fees. In fact, 49 percent of millennials, 48 percent of Gen Xers, 38 percent of boomers and 24 percent of seniors feel the same.
In addition to purchases of bulky or heavy items, such as pet food, shoppers are increasingly going online for more sensitive purchases. IRI E-Market Insights reports that gastrointestinal and adult incontinence products are among the largest e-commerce growth categories. These products are not what people imagine themselves needing, so when these occasions arise, it’s both a comfort and a convenience for shoppers to learn about and order products online.
“E-commerce sales will continue to climb in 2019 and beyond, with retailers increasingly investing in better ways to engage shoppers, including with improved navigation and mobile access, delivery and payment options, and endless aisle assortments,” added Gagliardi.