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Sometimes, if you run out of a needed item, you just have to bite the bullet and buy it no matter the price. But for the rest of your grocery shopping, you can afford to be more discriminating and hold out for a good deal.

A new report says that’s just what we’re doing – and the internet is helping to make it possible.

According to Nielsen’s new study “Digitally Disrupting The Habitual Shopping Routine,” about half of brand purchases are driven by a need to replenish. So, with lists in hand, time-starved shoppers “tend to run on autopilot as they cruise the aisles during their routine shopping trips,” filling their cart without regard to promotions or price.

But that leaves about half of brand purchases that are not driven by a need to replenish. And if brands expect us to pay a premium for those items – they’re mistaken.

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The report finds that deal seeking, via “pre-store digital engagement”, is on the rise. According to Nielsen survey respondents, the availability of coupons is the top influencer on what grocery products they plan to buy (15%), just ahead of sales promotions (14%) and way ahead of advertising (3%).

And “digital drives how shoppers obtain coupons,” Nielsen reports. Respondents said they get more than 40% of the coupons they use, from websites or via email or mobile apps. In fact, looking for coupons and deals is by far the top thing shoppers do online before heading to the store (59%), well ahead of creating a shopping list, or looking for product information or recipes.

So Nielsen says brands that want to sell more products need to provide more deals, where the deal seekers are looking for them – online. In order to “engage with shoppers that are digitally engaged, delivering relevant and personalized content is paramount,” the report concludes. “Technology allows brands to create engaging and personalized experiences that can disrupt habitual shopping routines.”

With so many newfangled methods in the works to deliver deals in stores, like coupons via beacons or overhead light fixtures, from virtual reality screens to 3D coupon machines, retailers and brands would do well not to forget the internet. “In-store mobile use is still relatively low,” Nielsen reports. So giving tech-savvy shoppers new ways to engage with brands in the aisles is admirable, but it’s not entirely effective when many more shoppers are busy researching deals online and planning their purchases before they even get to the store.

Manufacturers are still issuing plenty of coupons in the good old Sunday newspaper inserts, and maybe beacons and virtual reality coupons will become a big thing someday. In the meantime, online appears to be where it’s at. Deal seekers can only hope that brands aren’t so busy looking toward the past, and the future – that they forget about the present.

Photo by Mark Turnauckas

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