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  • Writer's pictureAcumen

Flexing your promotional strategy to fit online and offline environments

Acumen has been working with the University of Bath school of management to gain a deeper understanding of buyer purchase behaviour; specifically, we were keen to understand how consumer behaviour is influenced by price promotions, and whether this differs online verses instore.

The essentials:

  • Use marketing platforms to inform consumers of the benefits of online grocery shopping.

  • Be aware that consumer habits are different online and in-store, tailor your promotions to this.

  • Make online promotions exciting. Their effects are less impactful compared to stimuli in-store.

Research was conducted in Australia, where online grocery shopping is still in its infancy, as this provided the perfect environment to explore developing buyer purchase behaviour. Through interviewing a sample of New South Wales residents, we were able to delve into their shopper habits and learn about the effect of promotions, both online and in-store.

The results suggested that shoppers with less experience of online grocery shopping and its benefits were more likely to choose to purchase instore, due to inbuilt assumptions around online shopping.  The results also found that the decision to purchase on promotion is dependent on whether shoppers are ‘browsing’ or ‘shopping around’ and their intended ‘basket size’ (meaning the size of their grocery shop).

The study offered ways to more effectively utilise price promotions offline and online for a more targeted approach to stimulate buyer purchases. Essentially, it’s key to really understand the consumer’s purchase intentions in order to understand why certain promotions are effective.

Be aware of potential inbuilt shopper assumptions 

Make it easy for customers to use online grocery platforms – spell it out and take opportunities to inform them of the benefits where possible. One finding from the study was that some shoppers avoid online platforms as they incorrectly assume that groceries always have to be picked up from the store, or that it’s not possible to get refunds for delivered groceries.

The study strongly implied that shoppers have an unconscious assumption surrounding the relationship between promotional discounts and impulse products. They often see a promotion and associate it with needless impulsive products – deterring them from purchasing. Shoppers have a keen awareness of their own impulse buying behaviour – so it’s important to be wary of this.

Tailor promotions to shopper orientations according to the channel

A shopper’s decision to opt for online or in-store is never usually a coincidence. A consumer who merely browses verses a consumer with a large list will rarely choose the same channel – and its factors such as these, alongside their intended shop size and tendency to shop around, that affects whether they shop online or go in-store. Consumers who are just browsing tend to shop in-store, whereas those who have large list planned may go online. Utilise these clues about buyer profiles and match your promotion to the channel where possible.

Replicate the offline environment where possible online

Stimuli from the in-store experience is lacking somewhat online, as instore consumers can be drawn in by sensory attributes, comparing the price of products on-shelf, and more easily viewing products on promotion (on aisle ends for example). Although offline shopping cannot match all of these, it should offer alternative stimuli to be able to compete with the in-store experience.

Take opportunities to influence decision making on each channel

Factors influencing the way shoppers make decisions can be highly different on different channels. Individuals navigate online supermarket platforms in a very different manner to offline. Offline there is a sense of spontaneity regarding decision making behaviours, whereas online tools including search bars, first page focus and saved baskets, make shopping more of an efficient process.

Want to learn more about how Acumen can improve your promotional strategy?

Send us an email to and together we can help make your promotional strategy more profitable.

The research conducted at the University of Bath school of management was part of a final year Business Administration dissertation project carried out in partnership with Acumen. The researchers involved were Poppy Bayles, Rebecca Moulton, Amber Perry, Emma Robinson and Rebecca Turner.

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