Grocery aisle

OK, I’ll admit it: I’m one of those wannabe foodies. I know just enough to be dangerous, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. Before you dismiss me out of hand though, I have to point out that I have some street cred: I do most of the food shopping at home.

Moreover, it’s not just food shopping that I do; I actually cook from scratch nearly every day. Impressed? Just wait. I do this for a table of seven, so it’s not just the missus and me. As for who the seven are, that’s a complicated family story I won’t get into, but ages range from three to 93.

So when I received word about Nielsen’s latest research on the future of grocery, I was definitely interested. Given that I typically shop at three different stores weekly — a high-volume fresh produce store with an incredibly large variety of ethnic products and meats, a Polish deli (obviously) and a large wine and spirits retailer — occasionally supplementing those with trips to a Costco, Trader Joe’s or Jewel (local Chicago supermarket chain), I’d say I’m a pretty savvy food shopper.

But I don’t use coupons or lists (a male thing, I believe). And I don’t shop for food online.

Back to the Nielson study though. It seems consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar retailers to shopping on the Internet. Nevertheless, Nielsen’s research shows that clicks do lead to bricks. Here are some of the findings: 

Joy of Shopping: 61 percent reported that going to the grocery store is an enjoyable and engaging experience

Family time: 57 percent think grocery shopping in a retail store is a fun day out for the family.

Digital retailing: North America trails in its willingness to use digital retailing options in the future

  • Highest in the developing markets is the Asia-Pacific  (60 percent on average), Latin America (60 percent) and Africa/Middle East regions (59 percent), Europe (45 percent) and North America (52 percent).

Mobile: Use of online or mobile coupons (18 percent) and mobile shopping lists (15 percent) are the most cited forms of in-store digital engagement

  • Two-thirds polled say they are willing to use them in the future (65 and 64 percent for mobile coupons and mobile shopping lists, respectively).

Apps: Downloading a retailer/loyalty program app on a mobile phone to receive information or offers is used by 14 percent of global respondents

  • 63 percent say they’re willing to use one when it is available.

Self-checkout: 22 percent of global respondents say they use self-checkout

  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) are willing to do so in the future.

Hand-held scanners: 12 percent of global respondents use a hand-held store scanner to purchase products as they shop to avoid checkout

  •  70 percent are willing to give it a try when it is available

Several of these bullet points represent important take-away for retailers and manufacturers as they ponder the future.

And here’s another critical talking point that comes out of Nielsen’s research, the return of the milkman. Yes, we’re talking home deliveries. Again, here are some of the findings:

Online ordering: One quarter of global respondents are already ordering groceries online

  •  55 percent are willing to do so in the future

Subscription services: 14 percent of respondents use an online subscription service, where orders are replenished a specified frequency

  •  54 percent are willing to do so in the future

 Virtual stores: 13 percent of respondents are currently using a virtual store

  • 58 percent are willing to do so in the future

In-store pickup: 12 percent of respondents are ordering groceries online and picking them up in store, while 10 percent are ordering online for curbside pickup

  • 57 percent are willing to pick up in store in the future and 52 percent want to try curbside pickup

Genertational approach: 30 percent of millennials, 28 percent of Gen Z, 22 percent of Gen X and 17 percent of Baby Boomers are ordering groceries online for home delivery

OK. These numbers are impressive. Is this the wave of the future? Well, let’s just say it’s a part of our future. Do I see myself becoming a digital discounter? Perhaps. Everyone loves a good deal. Grocery deliveries for yours truly? Maybe less so. I still like seeing, touching and smelling food. But in a pinch, I certainly would consider it.

In the end, I believe we are looking at a brave food world for the consumer, with so many more options to consider. Hold on to your carts!

P.S. Speaking of check outs, check out Farhad Manjoo's Personal Tech column in the New York Times on Instacart.