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Who's the most grocery tech savvy?

Just 5 percent of shoppers regularly use online-only retailers for groceries with an additional 15 percent occasionally shopping online-only grocers.

Digital tools will be part of the future of food shopping, whether customers use smartphones to compare prices or look up nutritional information and then share information via social media, the Food Marketing Institute reported. Photo illustration
Digital tools will be part of the future of food shopping, whether customers use smartphones to compare prices or look up nutritional information and then share information via social media, the Food Marketing Institute reported. Photo illustration

Just 5 percent of shoppers regularly use online-only retailers for groceries with an additional 15 percent occasionally shopping online-only grocers.

That's an increase compared to 11 percent in 2015.

"Online shopping for groceries may still be relatively small, but shoppers are using digital tools prior to and during shopping trips," the Food Marketing Institute reported in its report on grocery shopping trends for 2016.

For the past four decades, the Food Marketing Institute has tracked where and how Americans shop and what is important to them.

Americans make 1.6 trips to the grocery story per week spending about $107 and those weekly shopping trips and spending increased slightly over the past year.

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The institute found half of shoppers bypass the closest store and will travel farther for lower prices or a better fresh selection.

The report, perhaps not surprisingly, found "millennials are most likely to engage with retailers using social media or other digital tools."

Baby boomers (age 52-70) were followed by Generation X (age 38 to 51), who were followed by millennials (age 18-37).

Used a phone app provided by their grocery store:

• 24 percent-millennial,

• 17 percent-Generation X,

• 13 percent-baby boomer.

Followed or liked their grocery store through online social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other):

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• 17 percent-millennial,

• 9 percent-Gen X,

• 4 percent-baby boomer.

Provided phone number for text messages (Store now send out updates on sales and coupons via text messages. Grocers have signs about this often near the store entrance.)

• 10 percent-millennial,

• 5 percent-Gen X,

• 3 percent-baby boomer.

Online shopping activities

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But when it comes to online activities related to shopping, the percentages are much higher.

Use digital coupons:

• 59 percent-millennials,

• 45 percent-Gen X,

• 44 percent-baby boomer.

Look up recipes:

• 66 percent-millennials,

• 47 percent-Gen X,

• 24 percent-baby boomer.

Check weekly sales specials at primary store online:

• 55 percent-millennials,

• 41 percent-Gen X,

• 41 percent-baby boomer.

Reads review of products and brands online:

• 41 percent-millennial,

• 31 percent-Gen X,

• 22 percent-baby boomer.

Scan QR codes or traditional barcodes of grocery items to compare prices across stores:

• 29 percent-millennial,

• 22 percent-Gen X,

• 15 percent-baby boomer.

Uses an in-store item locator (on mobile device):

• 29 percent-millennial,

• 19 percent-Gen X,

• 15 percent-baby boomer.

Scans QR codes or barcodes of grocery type items to learn more about their nutritional value:

• 23 percent-millennial,

• 19 percent-Gen X,

• 18 percent-baby boomer.

Half of all shoppers, especially the younger generations, use social media-Facebook, Pinterest, search engines, YouTube, texting, Instagram-to engage with food digitally, the institute reported.

• 73 percent-millennials,

• 59 percent-Gen X,

• 38 percent-baby boomer,

• 20 percent-mature (age 71 and older).

"As more shoppers are becoming more comfortable with purchasing grocery items online, brick and mortar retailers have the potential to attract 'outside of proximity' shoppers through online ordering and delivery services," the institute reported in its key insights and implications in the marketplace analysis. "Meanwhile, more shoppers will find the best ways to fit online into their routines."

Digital tools will be part of the future of food shopping, the institute reported.

USA Today recently reported Amazon may be moving its grocery business into new territory in certain markets (notably now on the West Coast) with drive-up grocery hubs where customers order their groceries online and then swing by to get them at the drive-up hub.

Older generations may remember shopping for groceries and then loading the bags into plastic tubs and getting a card with a number. Shoppers then collected their vehicles from the parking lot and drove up to the store, where employees used a conveyor belt of sorts to move the tubs from inside the store out to the loading area where they then watched for the corresponding numbers and loaded the groceries into the vehicles for the customers. Technology may be putting a new spin on that example for a better shopping experience.

"More shoppers are using digital tools and social media to help them plan, shop for and share food experiences," the institute reported. "More millennials are using digital tools and using them with more regularity than other generations. Retailers should focus not only on capturing online transactions, but also on providing ways to communicate with shoppers, easing frustrations and enhancing the shopping experience."

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