It’s Time for Online Grocery Shopping Experience to Come of Age

Of all the shoppers who purchased groceries online during the pandemic, who do you think were the least satisfied?

If you guessed “less internet-savvy older generations of shoppers,” who presumably prefer the brick-and-mortar experience they are accustomed to, you’d be using pretty good logic.

You would also be dead wrong.

Despite being digital natives, it was actually Millennials and Gen Z who reported the lowest satisfaction rate amongst all online grocery shoppers in 2020.

Does that seem strange to you? It actually makes perfect sense to me. Those of us under 35 have grown up with relatively frictionless digital shopper experiences. Online shopping to us is already personalized, mobile-friendly, supported by one-click payments, and with free shipping and easy returns. We get only our favorite music from Spotify, movies tailored to our personal tastes from Netflix, and exactly the products we are looking for from Amazon.


In fact, most eCommerce stores understand us well and make buying from them as convenient and frictionless as possible. Why shouldn’t they? They have had decades to develop that level of convenience and service. And here’s the kicker—this online shopping experience is all we know. 

Meeting Millennial and GenZ expectations is no longer optional for grocers

According to Pew Research, however, Millennials have already overtaken Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest adult generation and Gen Z is in hot pursuit. Giving Millennial and Gen Z shoppers what they want is no longer optional for grocers.

However, satisfying young shoppers in online grocery is far harder than it is for other retail categories. Grocery shoppers buy more items per shopping trip. They must choose from a higher volume and diversity of merchandise. Fresh foods and substituting out-of-stock items pose complex challenges. And then, of course, there is the highly personal nature of food itself. With a multitude of bespoke tastes and dietary habits, how can grocers begin to know what a shopper wants?

That’s why we started Halla—and then created Taste Intelligence.

My co-founders Henry Michaelson, Gabriel Nipote, and I have been friends for more than half our lives. We grew up together. We’re similar in a lot of ways, but we each experience food very, very differently. I have food sensitivities. Henry is an adventurous eater. And Gabriel counts calories and carbs. In a sense, that’s how Halla started—three Gen Z friends thinking about how unique each of our human preferences really are.

Ultimately, that question became more specific. We asked: “How do grocers manage to understand what shoppers like us really want?”

And it turns out—there was simply no answer to that question.

So we created one. Halla Taste Intelligence is the only real-time, grocery-specific, and API-ready personalization engine in the market today. It is trained on over 100 billion behavioral and product data points across the food retail landscape to present to grocery shoppers exactly the products they are looking for, when they are looking for them, based on 1:1 customer ID’s, not just aggregate “people like you bought” algorithms.

Taste Intelligence works to improve the online grocery shopping experience in all the ways that really matter to young shoppers today: I am talking about:

— Search results that prioritize products according to unique shopper preferences and dietary habits.
— Recommendations that accurately predict what shoppers need to complete recipes or meet household stocking requirements.
— Substitutions for out-of-stock items that meet customers actual cooking and household needs.

Halla Taste Intelligence does all of that, personalized on a 1:1 basis to unique customer IDs, and it does it in real-time. It understands what Millennial and Gen Z shoppers want in a way that often feels as if it is some kind of magic (but—spoiler alert—it is actually just cutting edge data science).

Improving shopping for the young delights customers of all ages

While it was largely young shoppers driving online grocery before COVID-19 arrived on the scene, Boomers and Gen X rushed online in 2020 out of sheer necessity. Today, most grocery shoppers across generations are still buying groceries online— at least some of the time.

Although the young may have higher expectations from digital grocery, everyone appreciates being served well, regardless of their age.

Studies show that younger generations highly value convenience, for example. (Hence the popularity of subscription meal services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh). But when it comes to convenience in general, who doesn’t want it to be easy to get their stuff? Inconvenient, non-intuitive online experiences are hardest on those “less internet-savvy older generations of shoppers.” My colleagues and I all had to help our parents and grandparents with online grocery shopping when the pandemic hit.

Millennial and Gen Z also expect what they see online to be personalized to our personal preferences like organic, paleo, vegan, and gluten-free. But offering search results, product recommendations, and substitutions that genuinely reflect a grocery shopper’s personal preferences is a good idea, regardless of the shopper’s age or personal dietary proclivities.

Better online grocery shopping experiences is not just good for shoppers, of course. It also translates into bigger basket sizes, better loyalty percentages, and higher net promoter scores. Millennials and Gen Z may be the shoppers who are driving the demand for better online grocery experiences, but if you ask me, grocers who invest and improve in this area early are the ones who stand to benefit the most.

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