What Does the Modern Consumer Want from a Grocery Store Brand?

What Does the Modern Consumer Want from a Grocery Store Brand?

Jan 31, 2023 5:43:59 PM / by Sara Bryant and Shayla Brown

Sara Bryant and Shayla Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic had a transformative effect on retail businesses, triggering new shopping behaviors and altering the status quo in many ways. Consumer behavior shifted significantly, and businesses had to quickly adjust their operations to meet the new requirements.

The grocery industry saw some of the biggest shifts with significant changes in demand occurring during the pandemic. Many brick-and-mortar stores expanded their delivery services or quickly set up online apps for customers to shop their stores.

This shift in consumer preferences proved to be permanent long after the height of the pandemic, forever altering the course of the grocery industry. A recent report from eMarketer indicates that even as the pandemic boom has subsided, US digital grocery sales will continue to grow, reaching $160.91 billion this year, a 14.8% increase over 2022.

So, now that the pandemic has changed buying behaviors, how can grocery stores create the same “in-store” experience and brand differentiators utilizing the advances in tech and the consumer buying journey?

At the Express-News and Hearst, we have over 3.8 billion first-party data signals that power and refine our audience segments. We know how to reach the modern consumer wherever they are consuming content, and we can help grocers leverage this data in their advertising and marketing strategy.

Below are five ways your e-commerce grocery business can reach the modern consumer in 2023:

Go With a First-Party Ad Buy

Online grocery shopping in North America has expanded and matured over the last 24 months. Insider Intelligence reports that in 2019, online grocery sales in the US amounted to 6% overall. In 2023, sales through digital channels are projected to account for 11.2% of the $1.32 trillion in US grocery sales. Furthermore, at the pandemic’s peak, many stores saw the equivalent to more than five years of growth during just a five month period. The rate of growth was particularly strong among age groups not typically considered tech-savvy, such as baby boomers, as they looked for ways to shop while limiting any risk to their health.

Grocery stores can benefit from serving campaigns that are surrounded in content native to the digital experience. For instance, if a brand can leverage video and social assets to create the “in-store” experience and then partner with a publisher who uses first-party data to deliver ads to consumers within that native content, they are reaching the grocery consumer in the right time and right place.

First-party data is becoming increasingly important as the ability to target with third-party cookies phases out. Hearst’s suite of robust brands, ranging from 28+ online magazines, to 24 daily and 52 weekly online newspapers, plus 33 television stations, allows us to build exclusive audience segments across hundreds of categories, interests, psychographics, and actions. With this powerful first-party data collected every time one of our 150 million monthly unique visitors interacts with our properties online, we get a powerful picture of the American consumer. This is what the modern grocery store business needs to succeed and effectively reach their consumers at the right place and at the right time.

Reach the Masses with Timely Promotional Pricing

During times of inflation, consumers start paying more attention to prices. The conversation shifts to “how much and how often” can you get a good deal. While native content provides more brand awareness, direct response triggers like online coupons are a tactic that grocers moved away from in a different economy.

Sales promotions are a tried-and-true way to draw in new customers and boost revenue. The platforms to reach consumers have changed, but the message is still relevant.


Actions US Grocery Buyers Have Taken to Save Money at the Grocery Store, Sep 2022 (% of respondents)


Leveraging social content creators or influencers and “hands in pans” video assets that give weekly pricing can be a key differentiator for any store to create a buzz and social loyalty.

Additionally, when you offer discounts for a limited time period, it can often encourage customers to purchase in bulk. This is a great way to increase profits for your store as well.

Share Helpful Information and Showcase Local Offerings

Consumers are facing more food allergies, more remote gatherings, healthier palates, and more fusion cuisines. The modern grocery store needs to consider the audience consumption of these new conversations in the content they produce:

  • Add guidelines for a healthy diet on food item pages
  • Show materials used for non-food items
  • Tag items "gluten-free" and "sugar-free" to make it easier for online shoppers to find the products they need
  • Provide any additional data that could make the buying decision faster and easier

In addition, as more people seek out eco-friendly lifestyles, they also become interested in the benefits of living sustainably. Providing locally sourced fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, and cheeses in your supermarket is one way to show your support for this movement.

Utilize Offline Marketing Channels

Wherever the modern consumer goes, they are constantly bombarded with marketing and advertising messages. Media consumption is increasingly fragmented, so marketing your online grocery store offerings on multiple channels (or "multichannel") is essential to reaching and resonating with your customer base.

As mentioned above, many consumers are seeking eco-friendly options and thus prefer more sustainable packaging options. In addition to being beneficial for the planet, having customers carry around reusable shopping bags with your store logo is a great way to advertise and keep your brand top of mind in the marketplace.

Research has shown that consumers care about companies who support causes that matter to them. According to Nielsen, 74% of U.S. Millennials said they are more likely to buy brands supporting social issues they care about. “The brands that pivot with purpose will ensure they not only survive but build their reputations and grow loyalty over the long-term.”

Offer Curated Tastings That Cater to New Trends and Foodies

Offering curated samples builds “membership” and a “food community” that builds brand loyalty, which may be fragmented during a challenging economic time. It is also a great way to promote any current sales or new products. A quick way to get the word out is by utilizing social influencers on Tiktok or Instagram, where you can produce short, shareable clips through local content creators who have a following and can generate buzz, especially with the younger generation.

Hearst Audiences and Media Solutions Can Help You Grow

The competitive grocery space is no longer relevant to just location, it is online, in apps, and in the city of San Antonio. Hearst's unparalleled access to consumers is the key to your company's success. Over the past 150 years, Hearst's expansive network and high-caliber reporting have helped mold San Antonio into what it is today.

Within our trusted brands that include digital, traditional media, events, community reach, and more, we can provide unrivaled market reach for our clients, regardless of their chosen life stage or audience.

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help with your store’s marketing strategy for 2023 and beyond.

Topics: Marketing, Advertising, Social Media, Digital, Instagram, Branding, Grocery

Sara Bryant and Shayla Brown

Written by Sara Bryant and Shayla Brown

Sara Bryant is the Senior Director of Marketing and Content Initiatives at the San Antonio Express-News/HearstMediaSA. She has led advertising and marketing strategy for multiple businesses across the B2B and B2C sectors for 15+ years. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Art Direction from The Creative Circus and a BFA in Design from the University of San Francisco.

Shayla Brown is the Demand Generation Manager at San Antonio Express-News/HearstMediaSA. She has managed multi-media advertising campaigns for companies across a wide variety of industries and has a strong background in marketing research. She holds an Internet Marketing Certificate from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Spelman College.