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Exclusive Q&A: Kroger sees ‘hybrid shoppers’ as the future of e-commerce

Michael McGowan
Michael McGowan, senior VP of commercial insights and loyalty, 84.51° (a Kroger Co. subsidiary)

An emerging segment of shoppers who interact with retailers across physical and digital channels requires retailers to rethink their engagement strategies.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Michael McGowan, senior VP of commercial insights and loyalty for 84.51°, which is the data analytics subsidiary of major U.S, grocery conglomerate The Kroger Co, about a new type of omnichannel customer retailers need to serve.

According to McGowan, these “hybrid shoppers” began merging their physical and digital retail activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will only continue to increase their omnichannel engagement throughout the upcoming holidays and beyond.

What is a hybrid shopper?
A hybrid shopper is one who engages in both online and in-store shopping. Prior to 2020, the biggest e-commerce hurdle was convincing customers to try shopping online using pickup or delivery for the first time. However, as shopping habits shifted during the pandemic, a new ‘hybrid shopper’ emerged – those who have integrated e-commerce into their routine.

Are there different types of digital shoppers?
Yes! Similar to traditional shopping, there is a wide range of shopper segments. In Kroger 84.51°’s recent report, we focus on two types of digital shoppers: digital dabblers and digital champs. Both trend Gen X and younger, have higher incomes, and are high-convenience shoppers.

However, digital champs see e-commerce as part of their lifestyle, whereas digital dabblers are more price sensitive. Digital champs spent more than half of their shopping trips online during the 2020 holiday season, versus digital dabblers who only utilized e-commerce during one-fifth of their shopping trips.

Why are hybrid shoppers so important?
This is an emerging segment of shoppers who require brands and retailers to offer engagement and value in a host of ways. We expect that the hybrid shopper group will continue to expand and is a trend that is here to stay well beyond the pandemic. The importance of the hybrid shopper is not only about engaging that shopper group today; it’s about having a great experience for shoppers that propels retailers and brands into the future.

How will hybrid shoppers impact the holiday season into 2022?
The hybrid shopper will continue to evolve as a new normal is emerging. Pending on what we see in the coming months regarding COVID-19, in-store holiday shopping could see a boost even among digitally engaged households, although the convenience of e-commerce, particularly for pantry basics, will keep pickup and delivery in the mix.

Shoppers who increased their use of pickup and delivery in the 2020 holiday season—and those who used it for the first time—will keep it in their repertoire even while they resume their pre-pandemic routines. And at no time will that mix of shopping methods be more in play than during the 2021 holidays as shoppers make their plans to reunite with family and friends.

These hybrid shoppers provide a view into what consumers are looking for in a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. This underscores how important it is for CPG companies and retailers to develop a strong omnichannel strategy for the holidays.

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