The Pandemic Accelerated Online Shopping: Why eCommerce Is Here to Stay in the Natural Industry

December 9, 2020
by David


The shift from in-person to online shopping began years ago and quickly grew thanks to 2 significant events: the internet boom and the proliferation of smartphones. This year, the global pandemic had a similarly seismic effect on pretty much every aspect of our lives—especially the way shoppers, particularly natural shoppers, get their groceries. Similarly, the growing popularity of natural products received a boost from the pandemicthanks to a worldwide focus on wellness and nutrition and a grocery stockpile that cleared shelves.  

The strength of eCommerce in 2020 is no secret, but now that the year is ending we have enough data to understand just how popular it’s been and how strong its staying power is with the natural audience. Share of online purchases is up 60% compared to pre-pandemic levels, signaling that eCommerce went from a rising trend in the natural space to a permanent fixture.  

Online Shopping Provides a Variety of Options

The evolving eCommerce space and the need for new, safe methods of shopping during the pandemic have resulted in shoppers having more choices to buy online. Today, shoppers can order directly from a retailer and have their order waiting inside when they arrive, the order can be brought to them curbside, or the items can be delivered to their homes. There are also third-party services that shop for and deliver the items to customers.  

Customers concerned about being around other people indoors suddenly opted for one of the many other options available to them. Each of these methods has one thing in common: convenience. Even after the pandemic has passed, shoppers will still expect this mix of options, so retailers and brands should not expect to return to the pre-COVID status quo. Shoppers were already moving online and now that they’re there, it’s part of the new normal.

Natural Products Have Sustained Popularity as the Pandemic Continues

As we all know, the early rush of pandemic shopping caused a spike in pretty much every category found in the market, with natural products showing a higher growth rate than the overall market. At the time, no one could be certain which factor played the bigger role: customers grabbing any item they could find on the shelves or a sudden desire for healthy options. While both were purchase drivers in the spring, the move toward natural is enduring. 

According to data from IRI All Outlet Panel, Enhanced with SPINS Product Attribution, dollar sales in natural products were up 19% year over year in April and remain up 13.9% as of October, compared to all products being up 16.3% in March and up 11.7% in October. What could have been considered a temporary fad at the start of the pandemic has proven to be the norm for many shoppers, who continue to buy as many (and in some cases more) natural products. New shoppers in the natural market are focusing on maintaining immunity and strong, healthy bodies to fend off any illnesses.  

Natural Products Are a Valuable Differentiator

Not only are more shoppers choosing natural products, but they are also choosing to make their purchases online at an even higher rate than conventional products. Online sales comprised 8% of the natural products market compared to 4.5% of all products. Overall, traditional grocery supermarkets are losing share of wallet, a contrast to their initial uptick in the spring stock-up phase. Meanwhile, large, multioutlet stores have regained the share of wallet they initially lost to grocery retailers, and wellness-focused retailers have gradually gained share of wallet as well. 

So customers are flocking to naturalgoing online, and slowly moving away from traditional grocery stores—but what does this mean? 

What Brands Can Do to Attract Online Shoppers:

Ensure your customers can find and purchase your products online. A solution like Destini Buy Online connects shoppers to more than 40 top online retailers and grocery delivery solutions, many of which are already selling your products. It’s a simple and efficient way to bring your products to customers and begin building your ecommerce presence. See how Destini Buy Online can help your eCommerce presence today. Plus, Destini incorporates the attributes that tell shoppers you have the natural and wellness-focused options they are looking for using information from your nutrition panel, ingredients list, and label claims. 

What Retailers Can Do to Attract Online Shoppers:

There is an online solution for retailers of every size—even if you haven’t explored the eCommerce space before. SPINS has partnered with great services that can get you up and running quickly so you don’t miss out on shoppers: 

  • Inmar Intelligence uses a common language across the grocery product industry so retailers have a richer engagement with shoppers online and in-store.  
  • GrocerKey lets retailers elevate their brand, build customer loyalty, and improve shopper engagement with custom experiences, personalized shopping, merchandising, and engagement.  
  • Mercato personalizes eCommerce and promotions with easy implementation, ideal for small and independent retailers who want to own the shopper relationship from beginning to end.