It can be hard to believe that a generation ago, most people bought almost everything from a local retailer. However, the internet and ecommerce have drastically changed the way people around the world research and shop for the the things they need. A recent international study showed how consumers in different markets use the internet as their modern retail solution for everyday items.

In March 2018, Periscope by McKinsey surveyed more than 2,500 consumers around the world (including 1,000 in the U.S.) to see how consumers are researching and purchasing consumer packaged goods (CPG) products online. Like many other industries that were once dominated by offline sellers, the new research shows the CPG transactions are increasingly happening on the internet.

In diverse markets across the globe, a significant number of consumers are relying on the internet to shop. In all of the markets surveyed by Periscope by McKinsey, the findings revealed that at least 70 percent of the respondents are undertaking some form of online CPG shopping activity. Despite the perception of American being the most tech savvy nation, French (40 percent) and UK (39 percent) consumers exhibiting the greatest balance of multichannel shopping preferences followed by German (33 percent) and then U.S. (32 percent) shoppers.

Though one could probably buy anything they need from online shops, the survey found that consumers had definite preferences when it came to the CPG products they were willing to buy online. For example, non-perishable items like canned goods are more likely to be bought online than something like bread. It  makes sense that shoppers would often prefer to shop in-store for things with short shelf lives. Otherwise, there's a chance the product will lose most of its freshness during transport.

This preference toward non-perishable goods can be seen in other parts of the research. According to the researchers, beauty and personal care products topped the shopping list for consumers in France (47 percent), the UK and Germany (46 percent), and the U.S. (38 percent).

People of every age group use the internet to shop for CPG goods, but certain demographics are more likely than others to do so. As one may suspect, the Periscope by McKinsey report notes that younger audiences do more online CPG shopping. Millennial shoppers (aged 18-29) were the largest group in each country surveyed (except the UK) to only or mostly undertake their shopping for CPG products online.

That said, as more people learn about the diverse range of items that can be successfully purchased online, other demographics will do more online CPG shopping. Even in this report, the digital channel predilection of millennials were closely matched in many markets by those aged 30-39 and 40-49. In the U.S., two out of nine (22 percent) respondents who shop for CPG items only online were aged 50-59. Similarly, the online purchasing behaviors of those aged 40-49 surpassed those in the 30-39 age group in Germany and France. Meanwhile, in the UK, shoppers aged 30-39 were most likely to adopt a digital only position.

"The survey shows that capturing the growing online consumer demand will require CPGs to build out their digital capabilities for strong omnichannel strategies. CPGs should focus on managing both digital stores and key account relations for digital, including assessing online channel performance, understanding how consumers shop a category online, and identifying innovation opportunities from online trends. It requires the same rigor that has been applied to physical stores for years," said Brian Elliott, managing partner at Periscope By McKinsey. "As respondents are motivated a lot by price and convenience when shopping online for CPG products, it is key for companies to have professional online Category Management capabilities in place to better leverage consumer insights to appropriately curate assortment, improve digital share of visual inventory, personalize conversations, and run promotions that maximize returns across channels. At the end of the day, leading CPG organizations will evaluate their broader channel strategy and make the necessary investment in their omni channel brand experience."

This huge report has a lot of interesting and actionable facts that online retailers can use to make their marketplaces more effective. For complete details on the survey's findings, download the 28-page report, 'CPG Goes Omnichannel: Shoppers Grasp the Digital Opportunity.

And for more recent research that can help marketers, read this article on a study about creating engaging social ads.