Wellness-Minded Shoppers Find Limited Online Selection

E-commerce search functions often fail to segment by allergen or health-specific need states. 

October 16, 2020

CHICAGO—Online retailers fail to surface the large majority (92%) of products in their e-commerce assortment that qualify to be found via search filters based on consumer need states such as "low sugar" and "keto," according to a new study from Label Insight.

“Empty Aisles: The Grocery E-commerce Shopability Audit” study found, on average, even among the top 25 most popular need-state searches (e.g. "organic," "gluten-free," "vegan," etc.), retailers failed to return more than half (53%) of qualifying products, leaving consumers with a limited selection to choose from.

In light of FMI and Label Insight's recent "Transparency Trends: Omnichannel Grocery Shopping from the Consumer Perspective" report, the e-commerce shopability audit reveals a significant gap between consumer needs and the online shopping experience. FMI and Label Insight's consumer survey found that 64% of online shoppers are making purchases for a diet or other health-related program, 55% cite allergies or intolerances as affecting the way they shop, and 53% say it is challenging to make sure a product meets the goals of their diet or health program.

“Need-state buying is big business—today there are hundreds of millions of consumers shopping based upon dietary restrictions, lifestyle, wellness goals and personal values,” said Todd Morris, CEO of Label Insight, in a press release. “While most retailers offer a full assortment of products that could fill their baskets, most consumers are facing 'empty aisles,' not 'endless aisles,' when shopping for their families. This is a fixable problem that needs our attention.”

The report also found that consumer needs are not adequately accounted for online. The 21 retailers who offered attribute-related search filters overlooked 80% of consumer need-states and preferences. Table-stakes search terms are nowhere to be found on retailers' websites, with top searched product attributes such as "diet" or "healthy" missing from all retailer websites.

Consumers are searching for products, but online retailers are missing the mark. Of the top 25 product attributes (e.g. "natural," "plant-based," "dairy free," etc.) consumers organically searched for online over the past 52 weeks, only 14 showed up within the top 25 search filters on retailer websites.

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