GLOBAL: Personalisation and artificial intelligence are two elements of the online retail experience that are expected to transform food and grocery shopping over the next five years, according to a new worldwide study.

In addition, by 2022, online grocery sales are expected to increase by a combined 212% across the three key markets of China, the US and the UK as online and offline shopping continue to merge.

These are some of the headline findings by IGD, the charitable research organisation, and The Consumer Goods Forum, which polled 223 senior industry executives across 42 different markets for the Online Store of the Future report.

Based also on a series of interviews with digital experts, the research forecast that online grocery sales in China will grow by 286% to account for about 11% of the country’s total grocery market by 2022.

Over the same period, online grocery sales in the US and the UK are expected to grow by 129% and 48% respectively, representing 2% of total grocery sales in the US and 7.5% of the UK’s grocery spending.

Looking in more detail at what digital trends will mean for the consumer, around four-in-five (78%) of the survey participants believe shoppers will use online price comparison services more regularly to switch to the cheapest retailer.

Two-thirds (67%) expect shoppers will be able to choose from a wide range of specialist online retailers underpinned by a common and consistent delivery service, while 75% expect more manufacturers to sell directly to consumers online.

A similar proportion (77%) think almost all digital communication to consumers by retailers will be personal in the coming years, while 69% expect some retailers will deploy personalised pricing and promotions.

“AI will help to unlock personalisation. The store’s layout will be dynamic and able to predict the customer’s reason for shopping,” said Simon Mayhew, IGD’s online retail insight manager.

“So, if you need a meal for tonight, your homepage will display only the relevant solutions. When generally browsing, you will only see the products and pack sizes likely to meet your needs,” he added.

The digital and retail experts who took part in the survey also expect much greater use of smart devices as well as facial, voice or touch recognition technology for payments.

For example, smart devices that automatically re-order products will become a firmly established way of shopping for many people, according to 60% of respondents.

“Smarter devices will make shopping simpler and more inspiring”, continued Mayhew. “Shoppers will subscribe to have their favourite products delivered regularly and AI will predict when you may run out and make or suggest a reorder.”

Sourced from IGD; additional content by WARC staff