Why online shopping isn’t working for all retailers

23rd November 2017

The Black Friday phenomenon (which refuses to go away despite some Brits’ refusal to adopt an American tradition) demonstrates the extraordinary impact that online shopping and multi channel have had on global retail. Nowadays you can buy anything from clothes and gifts to high value items such as cars and houses online. But there is still one sector that is falling far short of expectations: online grocery shopping. According to the latest figures from YouGov, most British shoppers are still unconvinced by the prospect of conducting their weekly shop online.

Online grocery shopping

According to the report, most shoppers are concerned about the freshness of food that is offered online. They prefer to squeeze their own potatoes – or if planning meals for the week they want to buy a packet of mince with a long date so they can cook it the following Friday. Whilst giving an indication of the available date range online, supermarkets cannot confirm the exact expiry date of the product being purchased and this means that sometimes groceries are delivered which are not suitable for the week. It is factors like these that can really put shoppers off.

Online grocery shopping

Another dominating factor is the social side of supermarket shopping. Most people are not keen to give this up. Although many people have tried online shopping, many of them do not return.

YouGov found that whilst almost half of consumers (46%) had tried online grocery shopping at some point, just 15% do it ‘regularly’ – i.e. a few times a month. And even when people are shopping regularly online, some 87% of them are still popping into a physical store to do a ‘top up shop’ and pick up additional groceries during the week.

Recent figures from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) concur, suggesting that overall, only 6% of total UK grocery sales are currently made online. Compared to other retail sectors, such as fashion or electricals, these figures are pretty low!

Why isn’t online working?

Look and Feel

YouGov found that 71% of those who do not shop online said that the biggest factor affecting their decision was that they were not able to touch the products before buying them. And of those that do shop online, 44% agreed that this was a disadvantage of the process. 57% of the group who do not shop online stated that they simply don’t trust the supermarket enough to make the choices on freshness for them. 31% of the group that do shop online also shared this concern. When it comes to choosing things like fruit and vegetables, individuals have different preferences on ripeness, shape or size that cannot be selected online at present.

Social and Fun

More than half of bricks and mortar customers (51%) suggest that they enjoy the social aspect of shopping: bumping into friends, chatting to the checkout assistant and getting out of the house. They enjoy the physical customer experience. 34% believe they would miss the social contact involved in a regular trip to the store.

Delivery Concerns

38% of non-online shoppers and 35% of online shoppers suggest that delivery charges are prohibitive. And 19% say they have not tried online shopping because they are worried that the delivery times will be inconvenient.

Online grocery shopping

Talking to the Mirror, Head of YouGov, Stephen Harmston, suggests that the online grocery sector is still waiting for a ‘lift off’ moment:

“Despite online grocery being around for years, we’re still waiting for the ‘lift off’ moment that has characterised other industries such as fashion and home retail. While some barriers might be tough to overcome – wanting to go shopping for social reasons, for example – others may be easier to address.

“A major one would be delivery charges. Grocery stores could look to implement top-up online delivery options throughout the week, so long as consumers commit to a minimum spend via their main shop.

“If traditional supermarkets aren’t able to do this, it may leave the door open for a disrupter – such as the likes of Amazon – to fill that gap and capitalise on the industry’s unlocked potential.”

Online grocery shopping

So it seems that online grocery shopping still has some way to go to match the online successes of other retail sectors. Do you buy your groceries online? What do you think supermarkets need to do to initiate that much-needed ‘lift off’ moment? Could Amazon swoop in and take the glory? Let us know in the comments section below!


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