Mapping The Changed Consumer Preferences In Grocery Purchases

The pandemic has not only drawn new customers to e-grocery but also led to a change in their buying preferences and habits, that need to be understood better by the brands, suggest experts

Given that people have been nesting at homes, with school and offices closed, the grocery market, in particular, is experiencing an interesting time. From at-home cooking to focus on a healthy diet to learning new ways to shop groceries, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer preferences and buying patterns that are compelling marketers to be watchful of the emerging trends and also adapt to them. 

The above has reflected well in the startling numbers that some of the reports have gathered. Last year, RedSeer pegged India’s grocery market size at $790 billion by 2024. A new report puts this figure at more than $850 billion in 2025 – tracing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8% in the build-up. The pandemic has only fared up the Indian grocery market during the Covid-19 crisis, read reports. 

E-grocery emerged as the poster child of this soaring segment that has been particularly benefited from the pandemic. Tech-savvy Indian consumers were already upping their online grocery consumption before the crisis – marked by a staggering 60% CAGR for e-groceries between 2016 and 2019. 

Further pointing how consumer perceptions and preferences have altered in the past two years, Preeti Reddy, Chairwoman, South Asia Insights Division, Kantar agrees that the pandemic acted as a catalyst in shifting consumers to e-grocery. However, there still remains headroom for it to grow. “What is going to help is that consumers have experienced the convenience of e-commerce shopping and also of grocery shopping. One in two consumers has claimed that the touch and feel are not as important as it was earlier. It is because their experience with online grocery & e-commerce has been good so far. Also, it is because the e-commerce brands understand what the consumer is looking for.”

Even Dr Meena Kaushik- Executive Chairperson, Quantum Consumer Solutions witnesses families indulging in online grocery shopping, which they usually delegated to others. “The convenience of online shopping has now transferred to groceries too.”

She however highlights the concerns of sourcing and quality of products of buyers. “When you can create a kind of a visual marketplace for the consumer to scan clothes, then why not for veggies? There's no reason why a tomato can’t be scanned in the same way. Also, Covid has made people worried about the sourcing of food because that is something they ingest. So, the transparency that you can create around sourcing creates a huge value addition to the product,” she suggests. 

Tech For Enhanced Experience

For many, online grocery shopping was a distant experience. The probable complexities and hesitation often restricted them from trying it. However, the pandemic acted as a juggernaut in enticing consumers to try this new channel, literally forcing them to allay all their inhibitions. Even these online grocery brands have been making the best use of their selling strategies and technological capabilities to pull in as many consumers as possible and proffer them an unparalleled experience. 

Smriti Ravichandran, Vice President- Head of Grocery, Flipkart expounds how technology has improved user experience but there’s the scope of improvement in the e-grocery market for selling wet products. “The ability for us to use the technology, to call out a product carbide free, pesticide free and to say that this was harvested two days back, and now, it is in your refrigerator. I think those kinds of things will really start to make a big difference because the base shift has happened and consumers have adapted to both segments. I believe it has been a bit of a relapse, as there is still a lot more work to be done with respect to technology disruption.”

Online vs Offline: Who Wins?

Dr Kaushik asserts that no matter how rich online shopping becomes, offline shopping will remain as it is an experience that consumers can never leave. “The pleasure of shopping is something that consumers can never give up, it will never go away. Because people don't go to buy, they go shopping. They go with their family and they look, touch, feel, and experience it. So, now that is an experience that will continue no matter how rich online shopping we have,” she shares.

However, Reddy is of a firm belief that the e-grocery market will coexist with offline grocery in a harmonised way, “It’s no longer online versus offline for consumers. It is integrated and harmonised. It's not even an omnichannel, it is all channels integrated together.”

 

The above speakers were present at a recent industry forum.