Hybrid shopping becoming the new norm

A woman holds her phone while looking at groceries in her frigerator.

Written by James Shea

A key trend emerging from the pandemic is the hybrid shopper. Consumers are shopping online, ordering delivery, getting curbside pickup and shopping in the store.

A recent survey by IBM Institute for Business Value in association with the National Retail Federation found that 27% of shoppers are hybrid shopping. Generation Z consumers were the most likely to be hybrid shoppers.

“While many surveyed consumers still place a high value on the traditional in-store shopping experience, they also now expect the flexibility to build their own shopping journey — according to the behaviors prevalent to their age range, available tools and the product category they are looking to purchase,” said Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis at the National Retail Federation. “This hybrid approach is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior.”

Grocery stores and retail brands are trying to find ways to serve the new omnichannel shopper. The customer experience historically has been centered around in-store experiences. The survey found that the top reasons people visit stores are: purchasing products, choosing their one products and looking at a variety of products. But consumers also want a quality experience online through curbside pickup and delivery. Consumers want these experiences to be just as meaningful and frictionless as in-store shopping.

“Consumers no longer see online and offline shopping as distinct experiences—they expect everything to be connected all the time,” according to the report. “Shopping must be fast and efficient some of the time, rich and experiential other times, and always easy and intuitive. What’s more, consumers expect companies to cater to their needs and live up to their social and environmental responsibility claims.”

While these changes in buying behavior were taking place prior to the pandemic, the last two years have only increased the timeline. Consumers have experienced quality omnichannel purchases through Walmart, Starbucks and other brands and expect the same from all brands. The report says that the new buying behaviors give brands the opportunity to build lasting relationships with consumers.

According to the report:

  • 56% of consumers have used restaurant delivery.
  • 44% have experienced grocery delivery.
  • 37% have ordered online and done curbside pickup.
  • Around 10% say they have not tried restaurant delivery, curbside pickup and grocery delivery but plan to do so in the future.

A study by data analytics company WARC reached similar conclusions about the rise of the hybrid shopper. The report said that hybrid shopping is “becoming (an) established pattern.”

“Marketers have long wondered what would become of the consumer behaviors that took hold during the pandemic when it began to wane,” WARC US Commissioning Editor Cathy Taylor said. “The evidence is starting to come in, and though COVID-19 is still very much with us, in terms of grocery buying behaviors and in other areas, the U.S. is moving onto its new version of normal.”

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