WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — With shoppers looking for ways to buy things more conveniently, it's clear that the age of the multichannel consumer is well under way, and retailers would be wise to respond in kind. Many of them have already done so.
According to retail consulting firm Upstream Commerce, convenience ranks at the top of reasons why consumers shop online, and as recent news has shown, this is just as true for supermarkets as it is for anyone else.
(THE NEWS: Kroger looking to expand its footprint into new markets, both physical and digital. Click here for the story.)
In addition to Kroger's plans to reach more multichannel consumers, Ahold has made a major push for them as well recently. Earlier this month, Peapod, the online grocery delivery service owned by Ahold, announced it would roll out its "virtual grocery stores" at commuter rail stations in Chicago and several markets in the Northeast. The "stores" consist of billboards that allow commuters with iPhones, iPads and Android devices to scan a QR code, download an app and shop by scanning bar codes. Even in New York, where the supermarket is often just a couple blocks away, FreshDirect trucks are a common sight.
Another major reason for consumer preference for online shopping listed by Upstream was pricing. With Wednesday's announcement of a survey commissioned by CouponCabin.com and conducted by Harris Interactive showing that more than 40% of smartphone owners "showroom" — going into stores to research items without buying them and then looking for the same items online to find lower prices — the ability to capture multichannel consumers is all the more imperative. Granted, the survey indicated that showrooming was more common among consumers looking for items like apparel and electronics, but it's a clear indication that the key to capturing today's consumer is high convenience, competitive cost.