FMCG Purchase Patterns Shift as Worries About Shipping Costs Ease

Buying less, but buying more frequently

Author: Patricia Orsini

October 10, 2017

When buying fast-moving consumer goods, shoppers are purchasing less, but purchasing more often. That pattern holds for both online and in-store shopping, but it is particularly distinct for digital shoppers.

Nielsen described the shift in shopping behavior in a recent blog post, noting that online FMCG purchase sizes declined almost 6% year over year for the 52 weeks ended July 2, 2017. At the same time, purchasing occasions rose by roughly 8%.

“The shift is most concentrated in pure-play online retailers, where consumers aren’t looking to fill their baskets,” Nielsen said. “Rather, their primary goal is to simply get what they want quickly and without any friction.”

The conventional wisdom for online shopping has been that shoppers will look to fill a basket high enough to avoid shipping charges. Shipping costs, after all, have traditionally be a determinant of whether consumers would actually push the buy button.

But that resistance appears to be easing. February 2017 research on behalf of ecommerce shipping platform Temando revealed that while expensive shipping was the most frequently cited reason for abandoning a digital shopping cart, that particular concern declined between 2016 and 2017. Among the 1,300 US shoppers polled who purchased online at least once a month, the survey found that other concerns about shipping—including the necessity of free shipping—had also declined. Meanwhile, the prospect of slow shipping was seen as more problematic in 2017 than in 2016.

Of course, consumers aren’t likely to simply stop worrying about shipping costs. A study of US digital shoppers by UPS in Q1 2017 found that 48% of respondents had added items to a shopping cart in order to qualify for free shipping.

But a focus on convenience and an increasing level of comfort with digital shopping for CPG products appear to be signaling new patterns of shopping.

While sales in the online grocery sector still account for only about 1% to 2% of overall grocery sales, the growth in FMCG is nearly all in the ecommerce space, according to Nielsen. During the 52 weeks ended April 29, in-store sales in categories such as packaged goods, beverages and home care saw much smaller growth.