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Four techniques being employed by online supermarkets to attract consumers

  Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

Anna Snchez-Jurez
For the first time, a study reveals what users value most when buying food online

An excessive variety of products can cause consumers to abandon mass consumption platforms

Spain's e-commerce sector is showing unprecedented growth. But despite this boom, the growth rate of online supermarkets has not been able to keep up. This style of shopping represents a market share of 1.2% for Spain, much lower than the 6.3% seen in the United Kingdom, or 6.1% in France. Such disparity can essentially be attributed to the late introduction of digital marketing strategies that have been adapted to new generations' consumer habits. Now, a recent a study from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has examined which key aspects these platforms need to incorporate if they want to guarantee a satisfactory shopping experience and therefore incentivize their shoppers. Some of the aspects most valued by users when using these websites include a comprehensive variety of products and a high level of security.

Guaranteeing an optimal and fluid browsing experience on mass consumption websites is a strategic measure for a business in this sector. "It's important that users enter into a flow, as we say in motivational psychology. In other words, they must be fully immersed in the activity at hand, losing track of time and even enjoying the browsing and shopping experience", explained the study's researcher, Doris Morales-Solana. It has been scientifically proven that consumers who enter into a flow when exploring online environments tend to spend longer on the web and make repeat visits to certain pages with a greater intent to buy. They also tend to hold the brand, the website and the organization in higher regard.

In her thesis, Flujo y comportamiento del consumidor en los supermercados en lnea (Flow and consumer behaviour in online supermarkets), Morales-Solana has compiled the first comprehensive model of variables that must be taken into account to ensure users have a positive experience when visiting online stores. The four essential factors these platforms must take into account if their users are to have a satisfactory online experience are:


1. Avoid offering an excessive variety of products

When users see an excessively large variety of products, it affects their browsing experience. It can lead them to abandon their online food shop. "Consumers shouldn't feel that the websites they browse contain an excess of products (brands, different formats, substitutes, etc) because if so, they may feel they are wasting a lot of time completing a routine task and end up abandoning the shopping basket they had originally intended to fill", explained the researcher. There are studies that suggest how after 40 minutes shopping, users begin to feel bored and tired.

Thus the research confirms the direct effect this feeling has on users' loyalty towards the store. "So, the more the offering is adapted to consumers' needs, the more they will visit the online retailer and repeat their purchase", the expert commented.


2. Security when browsing and shopping online

The study also confirms the importance users place on feeling safe whilst browsing and shopping online. In terms of online transactions, the data supplied by the Annual eCommerce Study 2016, from IAB Spain (pdf, in Spanish) shows how the majority of online transactions are made using PayPal (62%) due to the security offered by this platform, which is followed by credit cards (29%) due to their ease of use. What's more, 69% of users value their ability to trust a website as one of the most important aspects of online shopping.

Data from the IAB Spain study also suggest that 49% of online consumers read blogs and forums in which other shoppers discuss their experiences and how happy they were with the service, and 48% find out through word of mouth (WOM) and talking with friends. Of this latter group, 14% state that this is a determining factor when it comes to choosing an online store.

Morales-Solana believes that consumers' disposition to shop in online supermarkets is inversely related to how risky they feel it is. She also revealed that "if users perceive a sense of risk, it tends to inhibit their browsing experience due to the negative emotions it generates".


3. Personalization: a platform where consumers feel at home

An online platform's ability to adapt itself to users in terms of its appearance, usability and publicity offer is also an essential factor when it comes to ensuring customer satisfaction. Morales-Solana highlighted that "it's a really key consideration for platforms like these. It allows consumers to structure content according to their needs and to eliminate any unnecessary items from their search. They can save a weekly or monthly shopping list and decide for themselves which products they want to see". She went on to add that "the more users see that the website is adapting itself to their needs, the more likely they are to experience a flow, enjoy themselves and therefore end up buying the products they see".

The study carried out by Accenture Strategy also demonstrates that well-executed personalization can be highly effective. The data confirm that 44% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that offer a personalized experience, and that 34% of consumers highly value services that learn from the their needs in order to offer them a more personalized service.


4. An attractive website design that helps users to focus

Concentration and focused attention is also essential for consumers to be able to enter into a flow. "When people come into contact with technology, things like the design and appearance of the website help them to feel more comfortable and immersed in the experience", the researcher suggested. When it comes to browsing these platforms, shoppers have expressed a particular preference for the graphic and visual design, the information architecture display, the interaction possibilities and an online system that allows them to consult information more efficiently without waiting for text or images to load.



First of all, Morales-Solana carried out a qualitative study of factors related to the state of flow, due to the absence of scientific literature on this subject, and held five in-depth interviews with experts on online supermarkets. She then conducted quantitative research by sending a structured online survey to around 7,000 online consumers; this research provided a sample of 651 consumers and their online shopping experiences.


Doris Morales-Solana

Expert in: Consumer behaviour

Knowledge area: