With traditional grocery’s share of the fresh food dollar on the decline, communication about produce, protein and prepared foods is more critical than ever. In this five-part series, “Don’t miss out,” AlixPartners experts break down the often-missed marketing opportunities grocers must seize to experience the full power of fresh for their business.

Some of grocery’s most valuable shopper segments—households that buy mostly organic, households that shop primarily online, and households that spend $200 or more on groceries weekly—over-index in engagement with both in-store channels like recipe cards and the magazine and digital channels like the website and the app, according to AlixPartners research. These shopper groups play a significant role in building average basket size, and they want to receive helpful information from grocers both in the store and online. 

To retain those customers, grocers need to take an omnichannel approach as they continue to evolve their shopping experience.

Connect the dots

Fostering greater alignment and connectivity between in-store and online resources can drive deeper engagement and incremental purchases. One example: a shopper learns of a grocer’s big weekend sale on the app and comes into the store to buy, then sees a seasonal produce display and asks an employee about the featured item. The employee directs the shopper to scan a QR code on the display for a recipe using the item.

Another example: a shopper clicks to read more about a featured item in the online version of the ad, then sees a suggested recipe for the product. The shopper then adds to the cart all the ingredients needed—and in the right amounts—with just one click.

Particularly as grocers plan their promotions, they should consider what existing resources they can use to help build the basket around ad items. They can make it easier for customers shopping online to say yes to the ground beef on sale, for instance, by bumping the recipes and meal plans that feature ground beef to the top of those sections on the website. In the same way, grocers can inspire shoppers in the store by referencing those resources in the ad, on signage, and via the in-store magazine.


Intentionally developing more and longer pathways for shoppers to explore how to use featured produce, protein and prepared food items will be especially impactful given the role those categories play in building the basket. Often these efforts won’t even require new content, just more strategic use of the content already available.

Make e-commerce easy

While the in-store shopping experience should be the priority for traditional grocers for the foreseeable future, an intuitive and enjoyable online shopping experience will allow them to compete with a larger range of formats.

Customers will appreciate shortcuts and suggestions that make it faster for them to fill their carts. For fresh food in particular, tools that will save shoppers time include saving their preferences about how ripe they want their bananas, for instance, and which substitutes they find acceptable for their frequently ordered items.

Amazon is the standard for a seamless online shopping experience, and there is certainly significant overlap between the Prime member population and the high-value shopper segments who appreciate engaging with grocers via websites and apps. With that in mind, traditional grocers need to at least offer an experience that feels easy enough that shoppers don’t want to go elsewhere when they require the convenience of pickup or delivery.

To better define what “easy” means for their shoppers, it is a valuable exercise for grocery leaders to periodically conduct focus groups to walk through the ordering process with customers. Such conversations allow grocers to identify hassles. Website and app data can back up whether issues described by a few people also frustrate others; for example, a high bounce rate on the “select your substitutions” page would dovetail with comments about that part of the process being time-consuming to the point they sometimes give up and finish their order later (or not).

Design an online experience inspired by in-store

The investments grocers make in their digital channels can do more than increase pickup and delivery orders. Grocers can serve all their customers by creating an online shopping experience that alludes to the best parts of the in-store experience and gives shoppers another way to engage in them.

If a grocer considers new product sampling core to its in-store experience, for example, the grocer could include a “Sample of the Week” in online orders. The grocer could also create a “Discover What’s New” product hub on its website to offer multimedia storytelling around new items and invite shoppers to send their feedback.

If a grocer prioritizes cross-merchandising for meal inspiration, it could periodically design displays based on the most popular recipes on its website and call out the spot as the “Top Rated Recipes” destination. Depending on the recipes, the grocer might also offer prepared versions as a more convenient option. If the display sees strong sales, the items might become regulars in the prepared foods lineup.

While the vast majority of grocery transactions still occur in stores, digital channels provide influential touchpoints along the customer journey. Because those touchpoints matter to some of the industry’s most valuable shopper segments, they should matter to grocers, too.

Coming soon: Don’t miss out: Know your shoppers beyond your own channels

Earlier in this series

Part 1 – Don’t miss out: Prioritize selling conversations with your fresh food suppliers

Part 2 – Don’t miss out: Unite your merchants, your marketers and your stores


Want more? Check out these other recent insights from the grocery experts at AlixPartners.