What Do Grocers Need To Know About Whole Foods Shoppers?

“Rival grocers can use these insights to better inform their targeting strategies, with the goal of reaching those more likely to shop at a Whole Foods," says Factual's Ocean Fine.

The profile of the Whole Foods shopper may seem pretty obvious — affluent, younger, professional, healthy, urban — the details associated with the location patterns those consumers create tell a deeper story that rivals can exploit.

In a study of U.S. Whole Foods shoppers between November 2017 and January 2018, geo-data specialist Factual compared them to a group of baseline users who did not visit Whole Foods stores (but live in markets where the chain exists). Based on their mobile data (anonymized, Factual notes), here’s what they found:

  • Live in California. 20 percent of WF visits took place in California, more than double the percentage of other states.
  • Have a comfy salary. They’re 154 percent more likely to earn more than $200,000 than the average shopper.
  • Embrace exercise and athleisure. They’re 62 percent more likely to frequent activewear stores like Lululemon and are 67 percent more likely to enjoy spending time outdoors. They also prefer custom or specialized workouts: they’re 17 percent less likely to visit regular gym facilities, 82 percent more likely to work with a personal trainer, and 56 percent more likely to visit yoga and pilates studios.
  • Start a family. They’re 32 percent more likely to be expecting parents.
  • Be vegan or vegetarian: They’re 37 percent more likely to eat at vegan and vegetarian restaurants

“Rival grocers can use these insights to better inform their targeting strategies, with the goal of reaching those more likely to shop at a Whole Foods. For example, grocers could utilize location category targeting tactics to reach customers who visit yoga studios, juice bars, car dealerships and specific home goods stores,” says Ocean Fine, VP, Agency and Strategic Accounts, Factual

“They could also use the data to better understand their desired customer’s hobbies, interests and preferences to develop better creative and messaging, highlighting products and images that Whole Foods shoppers would respond to — in this case, topics like green living, alternative exercise and healthy home would resonate.”

With the dust settling on Amazon’s $13.7 billion June 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods, there is the promise (or to rival grocers, the threat) of lower prices to attract a wider array of shoppers to the organic grocer’s 431 locations.

“The Amazon deal demonstrates the need for grocery retailers to move faster in their digital efforts,” Jeremy Neren, CEO of GrocerKey, a Madison, WI-based provider of e-commerce and tech services for local grocers and chains, has told GeoMarketing. “There was already pressure to do so, given the rise in consumer demand and pressure being put on by Amazon, that pressure only increases with Amazon now having a nationwide brick-and-mortar presence to add to it’s arsenal of digital tools to reach consumers and bring them into their overall ecosystem.”

Rival chains and independents should be thinking about finding partners that not only help them implement cutting edge technology, but also help them think about how to operate in a new environment such as e-commerce.

Furthermore, Amazon’s dominance of the voice-activated, Connected Intelligence space with the Echo’s Alexa. As these devices go mainstream, Alexa will certainly provide a direct line to grocery purchases to Whole Foods, placing even more pressure on rival grocers to also find a way ensure Alexa connects them to customers as well.

“It requires an entirely different operational approach than they are accustomed to operating in to serve their customers in-store,” Neren says. “It’s also important to consider that strengthening your digital presence does not simply mean e-commerce, it means providing more touch points to reach consumers — e-commerce is a component of that, but you must also consider how to augment the in-store experience via digital touch points such as value added native mobile apps.”

And that’s where insights about the profiles and preferences of Whole Foods shoppers can help rivals balance the playing field.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.