When it comes to food retailing and online media, the Whole Foods Parking Lot is not the only place where ‘it’s getting real’; in fact, the connection between grocery stores and the digital world extends far beyond this catchy YouTube hit.

The first and most obvious connection is in online grocery shopping, and recent efforts from Amazon, Walmart, and Safeway indicate that we’ll continue to see aggressive expansion in this space. However, even in the absence of an e-commerce platform, grocery retailers have several options for creatively delivering value to consumers online. Here are three online consumer trends and opportunities for all grocery retailers to consider:
  • Consumers are searching for food all the time, for every occasion. In fact, searches in the food & drink category are growing rapidly year over year. Grocery retailers can make sure they are found by consumers as result of these searches by creating relevant ads to drive grocery sales both online and in-store.

    Coupled with this overall growth trend is the fact that food remains central to many social events, holidays, and traditions. Prior to creating grocery lists, consumers are online generating ideas and searching for recipes, providing yet another highly relevant interaction point for grocery retailers. In 2010, for example, consumers were increasingly interested in Apple Crisp recipes in September, cooking turkey in November, and Prime Rib and Christmas cookies in December. In addition to search ads, retailers can take advantage of the vast Google Display Network to reach consumers while they are looking at food- and recipe-related sites in preparation for a store visit.
  • It’s no longer only about clipping coupons from the Sunday circular; grocery consumers search for deals and discounts online, too. With seemingly constant rising gas and commodity prices, consumers are actively looking online to find the best grocery deals. Search volume for the term [grocery coupons] specifically has seen a huge uptick in recent months. Retailers can take advantage of increased demand of deal-conscious consumers by using search ads with Sitelinks to guide consumers directly to promotion, coupon, and circular experiences within their sites.
  • Consumers are always on the move… luckily, they bring their mobile phones along with them for support. Anyone with a smartphone can relate to using mobile search to find a nearby store or service while on the go. Grocery retailers can enable mobile campaigns to ensure that consumers can find them quickly and easily in those last minute searches a fruit tray or a bag of ice to bring to the party. Retailers can also enhance the mobile experience with location extensions and directions to facilitate a seamless transition from a mobile search to the store aisle.
As time goes on, we can only anticipate there will be many more ways in which consumers interactions with grocery retailers online will continue to ‘get real’. However, if there is one piece of this multi-channel consumer experience the Whole Foods Parking Lot video that has me wondering, it’s this: What really would happen if someone parked in violation of the reserved Hybrid parking space?

Posted by Kristin Patterson, The Google Retail Team