Single-Serve Beverages in the Omnichannel Age: 7 Refreshing Insights
Retailers come in many shapes and sizes: mass merchandisers, convenience stores, vending machines, heck, even your friendly, neighborhood ice cream truck.
And many retailers, from Walmart to that concession stand at your local ballpark, generally have at least one product in common: single-serve beverages. A can of soda, a bottle of chilled coffee, a carton of juice…it seems single-serve beverages are sold everywhere.
It makes sense, too.
Convenience goods like ice cold sodas and king size candy bars have instant appeal to shoppers, who may need immediate refreshment following a long shopping excursion. Single-serve drinks are, of course, also sold in bulk, from modest six-packs to hulking 35-packs, offering retailers even more opportunities to sell soda, sports drinks, bottled water, and a litany of other single-serve beverages.
But like practically all consumer packaged goods, single-serve beverages are trying to find their bearings in the omnichannel age, as they seek to understand how ecommerce, mobile apps, store pickup, etc. are influencing shoppers and their purchases of single-serve beverages.
Survey: Single-Serve Beverages in the Omnichannel Age
To shed light on this pressing topic, last week Field Agent surveyed a crowdsourced sample of 2,040 U.S. adults across all 50 states*. For this brief mobile survey, we wanted to understand where Americans buy single-serve beverages, and, among consumers who purchase such drinks online, what role impulse purchases play in the digital shopping environment.
Single-serve beverages, we explained to respondents, are generally canned, bottled, or otherwise packaged for convenient pickup as well as one-time, on-the-go consumption, and do not include fountain drinks or multi-serve containers like three-liter soft drinks.
*All respondents were U.S. adults and smartphone owners at least 18 years of age. Field Agent surveyed a crowdsourced sample of 2,040 consumers across all 50 states, conducted July 2, 2018-July 3, 2018. The survey was completed entirely through the Field Agent mobile app. Demos -- Gender: female (70%), male: (30%); Age: 18-24 (3%), 25-34 (27%), 35-44 (36%), 45-54 (22%), 55-64 (10%), 65+ (2%); Ethnicity: Caucasian or some combo (77%), African-American or some combo (11%), Hispanic or some combo (5%), other (7%); Household income: <$35,000 (22%), $35-49K (23%), $50-74K (26%), $75-99K (13%), $100-124K (7%), $125-149K (4%), $150K+ (5%).
Below we share several takeaways from this survey as a seven-question QuickFire Q&A.
QuickFire Q&A: Single-Serve Beverages
1. How many Americans actually purchase single-serve beverages?
Single-serve beverages are a very common purchase among Americans.
In our survey of 2,040 consumers, only 2% indicated they do not purchase single-serve drinks of any kind, with ecological concerns like "too much waste" the primary objection, followed by the relatively higher expense of buying individually-packaged sodas, water, and the like.
Thus, in our survey, 98% of consumers said they purchase single-serve beverages in some capacity!
Respondents were asked, “Which single-serve beverages do you purchase, whether individually or in bulk?” At 84% and 78% respectively, bottled water and soda were especially prevalent purchases.
2. Yeah, but how often do they drink single-serve beverages?
To respondents who purchase single-serve drinks (n = 2,007), we presented seven popular beverage categories and asked, “How often do you drink the following?”
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they drink bottled water practically every day, while, cumulatively, fully 98% reported drinking bottled water at least once a year.
The chart shows how other categories fared:
3. What are the top retailers for purchases of single-serve beverages?
Clearly, single-serve beverages are big business, but for whom exactly? That is, where do consumers buy single-serve drinks?
To answer this question, we presented the same seven categories from above, this time asking respondents to identify all the retailers from which they buy each single-serve beverage, individually and/or in bulk. We intentionally excluded online retailers from this question (see the following questions).
Mass merchandisers and grocery stores came out on top for all categories except energy drinks and cold coffee, where c-stores performed best.
Here are the top three B&M retailers for purchasing each single-serve beverage:
Other noteworthy insights:
- In our survey, warehouse clubs sold more bottled water (37% buy bottled water from warehouse clubs) than soda (26%)
- Vending machines are relatively popular for sodas (42%), but then there’s a drop-off: bottled water (22%), sports drinks (13%), tea (12%)
- Dollar stores and drug stores sell more soda (34% and 33% respectively) than the other beverage categories
4. What single-serve drinks do consumers buy online?
Fully 82% (n = 2,007) never buy single-serve beverages online—not individually, not in a pack.
But, among the 364 respondents who do purchase single-serve drinks online, bottled water (38%), soda (32%), and—surprise, surprise—protein shakes (29%) were the most popular categories for digital purchase.
Additionally, 25% reported purchasing sports drinks online, followed by tea (24%) and energy drinks (23%). No other category amassed a purchase rate of 20% or more.
5. How do these online shoppers actually acquire their single-serve beverages?
Of those who buy single-serve drinks online (n = 364), 59% said they receive them via multi-day package delivery.
Yet, significantly, 44% said they rely on in-store pickup, and 43% curbside pickup, to acquire the single-serve drinks they purchase online. Another 21% use local, “fresh” delivery.
6. When shopping online, do Americans plan their purchases of single-serve beverages…or buy them on impulse?
To the 364 shoppers in our survey who buy single-serve drinks online, we asked, “In general, when you buy single-serve beverages online, how often do you do it on impulse (i.e., you didn’t plan to purchase the beverage)?” This question, we stressed to respondents, pertains to single-serve beverages bought individually as well as those purchased in a larger pack.
In all, 30% indicated they always or often buy single-serve beverages on impulse when shopping online, and another 30% do so sometimes. Only 10% said they never buy single-serve beverages on impulse when shopping online.
Long live the impulse purchase.
7. Do purchases of single, cold beverages still have a place in online grocery-shopping?
Seeing how beleaguered shoppers will sometimes grab a drink when checking out in-store, we wondered: Do online shoppers ever purchase a single, cold drink to consume immediately upon picking up their grocery orders?
We posed this question to 234 shoppers who reported purchasing single-serve beverages online for in-store and/or curbside pickup.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents indicated they always or often, and 32% sometimes, purchase a single, cold beverage when shopping online—that is, with the intent of consuming the drink as soon as they pick up their online grocery orders.
Thus, in all, 7-in-10 pickup users at least sometimes enjoy a refreshing, single-serve drink when retrieving their groceries. So, retailers, if your website doesn't prompt online shoppers to purchase a single, cold beverage for instant gratification at the pickup site...maybe it should.
The Last Drop: Lessons Learned
Survey results suggest that while single-serve beverages are a very common purchase among U.S. consumers, such purchases haven't yet hit a digital tipping point. Only 18% in our survey reported going online, at all, to purchase single-serve beverages.
But with trends being what they are, many expect digital grocery-purchases are the way of the future, it will be prudent to continue exploring how shoppers buy single-serve beverages when shopping online.
Our survey suggests bottled water, soft drinks, and maybe even protein shakes are among the more popular drink-categories for online purchase.
And, significantly, among our respondents, online shopping hasn’t eliminated the impulse purchase of single-serve drinks. Some 60% said they buy such beverages on impulse at least sometimes when buying single-serve drinks online.
Perhaps it's true: the more things change, the more they stay the same? But the challenge for brands and retailers in the omnichannel age will be determining what is changing and what is staying the same.
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