Consumer behavior for online grocery shopping

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Impulsive buying

According to Rock (1987) impulse buying is a concept about how humans tend to vary their impulsiveness and how they handle the urges that come upon them, and how likely one is to do an impulse purchase. The tendency of impulsive buying or, as conceptualized by Rook (1987) “individual underlying proclivity” is considered as a character or personality trait. Furthermore, a scale developed to measure this personality trait was formed to identify low, medium, and high-impulse consumers based on how consumers stand regarding materialism, risk aversion, recreational shopping, acquisitiveness, and sensation seeking (ibid).
According to Chan, Cheung and Lee (2017) there are four types of impulse buying patterns: Pure impulse, Reminder impulse, Suggestion impulse, and Planned impulse. Pure impulse buying occurs when a consumer makes an unexpected purchase that breaks the usual pattern. Reminder impulse buying is the second pattern that occurs when a customer gets warned that the product is low in stock or recalls an advertisement and remembers a previous feeling to buy. Suggestion impulse buying is the third pattern which is when a consumer first sees a product and then expresses a need for it. Planned impulse buying happens when a consumer for example has a prepared shopping list but at the same time an intention to make other purchases than required on the list, based on for example discount (Chan, Cheung & Lee, 2017).
Aruna and Santhi (2015) have done a more recent study where they state impulse buying as a personal trait for yourself. People who attend to buy more in impulse tend to be more social and concerned about status and image, and therefore most likely have acted with an impulse and bought something that looks good from others’ perspectives rather than from their own. Another tendency of impulse buyers stated by Aruna and Santhi (2015) is that they tend to feel more anxiety, which most likely will lead to them having a hard time resisting certain urges and feelings that lead to impulse purchases. Aruna and Santhi (2015) explains the third tendency of impulse buyers which is that they use overconsumption to feel more happiness and to improve their mood.
The “shopping momentum effect” formed by Dhar, Huber and Khan (2007) explain that if a consumer makes one impulse purchase, the chances of making a second one will increase and furthermore decrease such negative emotions that are connected to impulsive behavior. Also, the possibility of making an additional purchase on impulse increases to, for example, complement a particular dish (Dhar, Huber & Khan, 2007).

Online impulsive buying

According to Chan, Cheung and Lee (2017) online shopping increases the chance of impulse purchases more than physical stores because of the convenience and easy access when shopping online.
Wells, Parboteeah and Valachich (2011) reveal studies of physical characteristics that can influence customers to make more impulsive purchases online. The “Environmental” characteristics describe the importance of a high-quality website and how appealing a website is for the consumer to make an impulsive purchase, examples of such cues can be website pleasantness, navigability, the experience of security, and visual appearance. According to Chan, Cheung and Lee (2017) consumers with a high degree of impulsiveness get more influenced by a website with high quality and get less influenced by a website with low quality. Therefore, the quality of websites is an essential factor for impulsive consumers (Wells, Parboteeah & Valachich, 2011).
Wu, Chiu and Chen (2020) define a spontaneous and impulsive shopping process with three important issues: perceived risk, online store design, and the psychological state of the online consumer. The study proposes a model with these three considerations and a link of the three defined issues to examine the components of online impulse buying. Consumers make unplanned purchases when exposed to stimulation cues associated with a strong need and desire. In the same study it is also explained that the measurements of the e-commerce design’s performance are based on the interaction of the consumers and are done with an expectation-confirmation model. Wu, Chiu and Chen (2020) stated that e-commerce companies focus more on online experience than on impulse shopping behavior. A consumer’s psychological state is a response to the products and flow theory in the e-commerce site. Wu, Chiu and Chen (2020) recognize that a consumer perceives more of a risk of shopping online than in a physical store and a perceived risk may have a negative effect on satisfaction and perceived usefulness of online shopping, therefore it is important with a risk reduction that can shift the consumers’ perception and satisfaction of online shopping, and that can be done with a skilled browsing technique, or the flow state, which are an important factor for raising the change of impulsive behavior (Wu, Chiu & Chen, 2020).
The design and development of a virtual layout are important to ensure easy navigation for the customer within the online environment (Lin & Lo, 2016). The virtual layout is an important factor for stimulating consumers’ emotional responses, which in turn can affect their impulse buying behavior (ibid). The virtual layout of a web page guides the consumer and shows what the store has to offer and provides the consumer with the information needed with minimal effort for the customer (ibid).

Factors of impulsive buying


Factors of impulsive buying decisions most likely is an effect of nudging, according to Keller, Markert and Bucher (2015), as they explain the facts of rearranging the environment of food choices in a grocery store which has been discussed in the context of nudging. “Nudging is defined as changing the presentation of choice options in a way that makes the desired choice the easy, automatic and default option” (ibid). A study on natural preferences in-store was done with soft drinks on shelves, and the result shows that consumers tend to choose options positioned in the middle since participants chose the smaller-sized drinks positioned in the middle shelf, more than the bigger-sized drink placed on the left (Keller, Markert & Bucher, 2015).
Weinmann, Schneider and Brocke (2016) describe digital nudging as the term of the design elements which guide consumers into behavior and decision-making in a digital choice environment. User interfaces such as websites and mobile apps are digital choice environments that frequently influence consumers to make decisions or judgments. According to the same study consumers make decisions every day in the online environment according to available options or rational deliberations, but most likely influenced by the design of the presented information, or as called “Choice environment”, and this will most likely lead to a subconscious outcome. Furthermore, the choice of the consumer depends on how the choice is presented, as for example a modification in the choice environment where there are presented different options, may “nudge” the consumer into behaving in a specific way and make a subconscious choice (Weinmann, Schneider & Brocke, 2016). As stated by Weinmann, Schneider and Brocke (2016) the digital nudge in a choice environment with a nudge design influences consumers to make unintended choices, therefore it is important that designers and businesses understand the effect of the design, if they want to influence nudges consciously or if they want the nudges to reduce certain choices.

Product placement

Previous research shows that sales of items that are located on floor screens and are located near cash registers have a greater tendency to capture consumer attention, which leads to quick purchases, which has increased sales of these products (Kerr et al. 2012). These strategic placements can encourage purchasing through attention and interaction with the product, and that it is easy to buy instead of putting energy into finding another item in the store’s interior (ibid). The study by Kerr et al. (2012) also explains that well-thought-out product placements can encourage the consumer to make impulse purchases. This can be supported by Tifferet and Herstein (2012) who explain that measures used to stimulate impulse purchases include strategic product placement and advertising displays.
In a study concerning online product placement Chen, Chiu and Yang (2014) explain that product placement on the internet is about how sellers in online stores place their products over the product listing pages to maximize profits. Product placement online is usually handled in the form of product information sources that are communicated via text and image of the product, and therefore visual stimuli such as color, shape, size, and spatial placement have a significant impact on online shoppers’ visual attention, which in turn affects a possible purchase (ibid).
Recent research by Anesbury et al. (2015) has found that the importance for grocery companies to get an understanding of how consumers behave online has grown with the pace of online shopping. In the research, a study was conducted where 40 inexperienced online consumers were recorded when they each went through a grocery shopping “trip” online. The purpose of the study by Anesbury et al. (2015) is to get more knowledge about how consumers shop groceries online, and how online shopping patterns can be compared with their shopping behavior in-store. The study also describes that a consumer’s behavior certainly can be affected by how they choose products and navigate thru a website (ibid).
The results from the research (Anesbury et al. 2015) showed that shopping for groceries online is fast and easy, where 20 of the consumers spent around 10 seconds per category. This result was similar to resembling studies that were done in physical stores, and the most commonly bought item was from the first page on the website. (ibid). This can be compared with Chen et al. (2016) who explains that a well-known problem is that websites often have too many products in a product category to be displayed on a single web page, and since consumer attention is a limited resource, most consumers often make their purchases only from the first few web pages « the online storefront « (ibid). Therefore, it is important that online retailers try to maximize the profit of the first pages of the website (ibid). From the study by Anesbury et al. (2015) it could be concluded that online grocery shopping creates a time efficiency for the consumer and that online shopping seems similar to in-store shopping. A consumer has shelves with product categories aligned for them when shopping in-store, which creates the opportunity for using visual recognition, which may differ from the online website, where products are viewed in smaller portions on one page (ibid). A consumer may not wish to take time scrolling through many pages in one category therefore, the importance of knowing the navigation effectiveness and display settings and that items are located so the consumer can encounter many products of a category in a few pages of search (Anesbury et al. 2015).
In the study by Chen et al. (2016) the online product catalog and a shelf in a store have a similar structure to generate demand. Just as in-store customers are affected by various stimuli, online shoppers’ visual attention can be affected by visual stimuli such as color, shape, size, and spatial placement of the product image (ibid). According to the study, it is important to keep track of the supply and demand of products and develop the web design accordingly to increase sales (ibid). It is also mentioned that a thorough and effective inventory control not only leads to lower costs and higher business profits but also represents a success factor in the competition within the e-commerce environment.

Up- and cross-selling

A major contributing factor to why consumers make impulse purchases is companies’ ways of using up- and cross-selling strategies (Dawson & Kim, 2009). According to Dawson and Kim (2009) a sales strategy is an attempt to upgrade an existing customer’s purchase, by trying to sell an even better product than the one the customer already intends to buy. A cross-selling strategy refers to a company’s effort to sell even more products to the customer, and these products are often related to the product that the customer intends to buy or that he or she has already bought (ibid). The study describes that up-and cross-sales are important to get successful customer relationship management because they are effective in developing and expanding a relationship with the company’s already existing customers (ibid). In an online context, marketers often implement this type of strategy through product recommendations, articles, sales articles, and other offers (ibid). Dawson and Kim (2009) describe in the study that supplements and upgraded items often are bought on impulse and therefore impulse buying online is an important phenomenon for both online marketers and consumers. According to Dawson and Kim (2009) it has been proven that up-and cross-selling strategies have led to increased sales for many online retailers where many companies, among other things, experienced increased order sizes. The study also explains that using cross-selling in the form of promotional offers within product categories can lead to increased sales for the company (ibid).

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Hedonic buying behavior

Previous studies by Tifferet & Herstein (2012) describe that a hedonic shopping experience involves several sensory methods such as touch, taste, smell, and sound that will most likely create imaginative thoughts and produce emotional arousal. In previous research on hedonic-driven consumption, impulse buying is characterized as a behavior that occurs when a consumer spontaneously experiences a positive impact on a product or service (Miao, 2011). The study also describes that impulses are difficult to resist as they often involve expected enjoyable experiences. According to Lee and Wu (2017) it is described that hedonic shopping motivation has a high probability that it leads to an unplanned buying behavior. The research also describes that positive emotions such as pleasure affect consumers when they shop and lead to impulse purchases (ibid). This can be supported by Putri (2020) who explains that impulse buying behavior is influenced by hedonic shopping value. Hedonic shopping value is another word for consumers’ potential and emotional value in shopping, as shopping for many people often is seen as fun and can be stress relieving (Putri, 2020). According to the study, consumers are more likely to develop an impulse buying behavior when they are motivated by hedonic needs and desires such as pleasure, fantasy, and social or emotional gratification (ibid). In the study by Lee and Wu (2017) they examine the relationship between utilitarian and hedonic value and satisfaction and unplanned purchase in the online environment. In this study it is clarified that when consumers experience the hedonic values of enjoyment and pleasure by being in an online store, it will develop positive emotions that inspire their imagination about the store’s products, which in turn can increase the possibility of unplanned purchases (ibid). It is also stated that consumers who express shopping pleasure have a greater tendency to make impulse purchases (ibid). According to Lin and Lo (2016) the visual hedonic components can be created online by easy navigation in the navigation flow, color, image, and font. How easy it can be to navigate on a web page can be achieved through different visual layouts (ibid). The flow state makes it easy for consumers to collect their desired products and be stimulated to a positive emotional response and make an impulsive purchase, because the safer and secure the consumer feels about shopping online, the more likely they are to enjoy the shopping experience (Wu, Chiu & Chen, 2020).

Consumer behavior in grocery stores

The typical grocery store trip is based on a customer choosing and buying several products in several quantities (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017). According to Tsiros and Heilman (2005) there are some contributing factors that still make consumers go to the grocery store to shop, and these are full-service delicacies, the ability to buy fresh pastries, premium meats, and detailed product lines. According to the study by Tsiros and Heilman (2005) it is the sales of these perishable products that drive the physical grocery stores. In the same study it is also stated that perishable groceries are one of the most profitable categories and this food category tends to be the department where consumers base their valuation of a store on most of all departments in a grocery store (ibid).
Consumers’ buying behavior varies greatly depending on the channel in which they shop (Campo & Breugelmans, 2015). In previous studies, Campo and Breugelmans (2015) state that the vast majority of customers who shop for groceries are what they call multichannel shoppers who keep visiting online grocery stores to combine the convenience advantages of online shopping with the self-service advantages of offline stores. This can be supported by Dawes and Nenycz-Thiel (2013) which indicates that multichannel shopping is becoming more and more the norm. They suggest that consumers who shop online also have a retailer that they are most loyal to (Dawes & Nenycz-Thiel, 2013). A large reason why many people choose to combine online, and offline shopping is partly that many customers have a need to be able to see and touch the products before they buy it and therefore this type of sensory goods have a relatively low number of purchases in the online environment (Campo & Breugelmans, 2015).
Research conducted by Graeme-Duffett and Foster (2017) describes that consumers who buy groceries in physical stores tend to plan their purchases very carefully before shopping. This is to reduce the cost of food, increase satisfaction with food choices, and get a greater value for the money spent (ibid). According to Graeme-Duffett and Foster (2017) a customer’s shopping list is developed by ads, dinner planning, and the use of coupons. In the research it is also stated that shopping for groceries while being hungry and also to plan dinner menus based on special offers should be avoided as you tend to shop for more unplanned groceries.

Consumer behavior for online grocery shopping

In recent studies, Dawes and Nenycz-Thiel (2013) explain that over the two last decades grocery stores have used their infrastructure and purchasing systems to offer consumers developed online stores. These online grocery stores make it possible for consumers to purchase groceries online and get the groceries delivered home to their doorstep (Dawes & Nenycz-Thiel, 2013). In previous studies by Hansen (2008) it is presented that shopping for groceries online gives the customer more benefits than shopping offline, among other things, it is considered more accessible and more convenient to search for the products that the customer is looking for. What is also described as an advantage of online grocery shopping is that it is easy to compare prices and simply choose a delivery time that suits the customer best (ibid). According to Hansen (2008) positive attitudes have a significant relationship to self-directional values, pleasure values, and self-expression values. The study also showed that the personal value of an online shopping experience could vary between consumers’ internet activity (ibid). According to Dawes and Nenycz-Thiel (2013) it is proven that brand loyalty is higher for online purchases than it is in stores. The study also describes that marketing of prices and offerings has stronger effects online than it has in traditional brick-and-mortar stores (ibid). Dawes and Nenycz-Thiel (2013) describe that big brands have a higher loyalty among customers who shop online. They also have a lower price sensitivity and prefer to buy larger packages of different groceries (ibid).
When consumers shop for groceries online, they are not only looking to gain an economic value in their shopping experience, but they also want access to a large assortment of goods and place great emphasis on being entertained during their online shopping trip (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017). The study points out that the S-O- R framework model, which means that the environment consists of stimuli in various formats, can lead to changes in individuals’ personalities or organisms, which in turn can cause behavioral responses, is widely applied to studies on consumer behavior (ibid). In the context of online grocery shopping, the contributing factors for a consumer’s stimuli to be satisfied and later on lead to purchase includes factors such as website features, range of product assortments available, availability of exciting promotional, discount offers, and time pressure (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017). In the study, they describe that innovative technology, visual appeal, product prototype and self-expression have major influences on online buying behavior (ibid). When it comes to online shopping, the product range is an important driving factor as a utilitarian attribute (ibid). Factors such as color, design, or price in the product range have been proven to contribute to increased web browsing for utilitarian purposes (ibid). According to Sreeram, Kesharwani and Desai (2017) the product range on the website encourages consumers ‘buying behavior which results in grocery retailers being able to gather more information about the product and also about consumers’ impulsive buying behavior. In studies presented by Overby and Lee (2006) it is described that customers who shop products online value efficiency very highly when it comes to price savings and convenience with the least possible effort. This can be supported by Hand et al. (2008) who state that convenience is a potentially decisive factor for consumers to see it as an advantage to continue to use online grocery shopping.
One factor that also has a major influence on consumers’ buying behavior online is the social influence (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017). According to Sreeram, Kesharwani and Desai (2017) the user base increases when consumers see other consumers using new technology. Then these consumers are affected by the influence of the other users and tend to adopt the new technology (ibid). The study also describes that it is found that social influence is a major contributing factor that motivates consumers in their consumption behavior (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017).
What has also proven to be a contributing factor to what makes consumers buy food online is the economic value (Sreeram, Kesharwani & Desai, 2017). The study (ibid) describes that consumers usually experience excitement, joy, and a sense of privilege when they receive exclusive discounts and then experience a feeling that shopping is both fun and economical. Sreeram, Kesharwani and Desai (2017) also describe that increased use of loyalty points and exclusive coupons increases the effort of online shoppers when looking for special discount coupons every time they plan to shop something online. It makes the customers more involved and sees it as an exciting way to discover more and make the best possible deal (ibid).

Table of contents :

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.2.1 Theoretical research
1.2.2 Managerial research
1.2.3 Research Gap
1.3 Research question
1.4 Purpose
1.5 Delimitations
2 Literature Review
2.1 Impulsive buying
2.2 Online impulsive buying
2.3 Factors of impulsive buying
2.3.1 Nudging
2.3.2 Product placement
2.3.3 Up- and cross-selling
2.3.4 Hedonic buying behavior
2.4 Consumer behavior in grocery stores
2.5 Consumer behavior for online grocery shopping
2.6 User experience
2.7 Conceptual framework
3 Methodology
3.1 Research approach
3.1.1 Deductive
3.2 Research strategy
3.3 Research design
3.3.1 Multiple case study
3.4 Type of data
3.5 Research method
3.5.1 Semi-structured interviews
3.5.2 Expert interviews
3.6 Operationalisation
3.7 Sampling
3.7.1 Purposive sampling
3.8 Data analysis
3.9 Quality of research
3.9.1 Reliability
3.9.2 Validity
3.10 Ethical & Sustainable considerations
3.10.1 Ethical considerations
3.10.2 Sustainable considerations
3.11 Work process
4 Empirical Findings
4.1 The interviewed companies
4.1.1 Maxi ICA Stormarknad Västervik
4.1.2 Grocery store A
4.1.3 Grocery store B
4.1.4 ICA Supermarket Lindsdal
4.1.5 Media4you
4.2 Consumer behavior
4.2.1 Consumer behavior in grocery stores
4.2.2 Consumer behavior for online grocery shopping
4.3 E-commerce
4.3.1 Marketing strategies
4.3.2 Website structure & user experience
4.4 Impulse buying
4.4.1 Factors of impulse buying
5 Analysis
5.1 Consumer behavior
5.2 E-commerce
5.3 Impulse buying
5.3.1 Factors of impulse buying
6 Conclusion
6.1 Answer to research question
6.2 Implications & Recommendations
6.2.1 Recommendations of factors
6.3 Limitations
6.4 Suggestions for future research
7 List of references
8 Appendix
8.1 Appendix
8.1.1 Interview questions for table 1
8.1.2 Interview questions for table 2


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