Is e-grocery less convenient than shopping in stores?
A Bain & Co. study concludes the reason online penetration remains so low in the grocery category versus others is because in-store shopping is still far more convenient.
The findings based on a Google and Bain survey of more than 8,000 U.S. shoppers include:
- Planning: While e-commerce sites should make researching, list building and list sharing easier online, consumers remain “highly-dependent” on analog tools such as combing circulars and writing lists on paper.
- Browsing: In store, shoppers have been taught to quickly find the products they desire, discover and evaluate new ones, and make price trade-offs. Websites lack visual clues for browsing. Online browsing also still tends to produce irrelevant search results, unhelpful product recommendations and limited filtering options.
- Price comparisons: With visible discount tags, less expensive private label offerings right next to name brands, and shoppers’ understanding that lower-priced options typically sit near the bottom of shelves, comparing prices is easier at the shelf. Further, many consumers don’t trust prices online, either because they believe prices are inflated or because of challenges making price trade-offs in the moment.
To some degree, online shoppers are more satisfied once they get accustomed to digital tools. Some 63 percent of those who shopped for groceries online three times report that it saved them time — a jump of 21 percentage points from first-time online shoppers.
Yet grocery shoppers who have not shopped online in the past 12 months say that building a shopping list and having ways to compare prices are the two features they would value most from an online grocery retailer. That contrasts with more advanced features such as personalized recommendations and substitution algorithms that some e-grocers are touting.
Innovative approaches to bring in-store grocery habits to digital include Tesco giving its online shoppers the ability to see how long their produce is likely to remain fresh and to buy individual bananas by count vs. by weight.
With text messages being used by many consumers, a “more comprehensive, simple solution” should support list sharing, say the study authors. Voice assistants offer the potential to simplify lists and virtual reality holds out promise to help online consumers “feel” products.
- Open for Business—and Ready to Grow – Bain & Co.
- What Consumers Want from Online Grocery Shopping – The Wall Street Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What parts of the in-store grocery experience will be easy and which will be hard to bring online? Are grocers over-emphasizing the benefits of personalization over other features that should be advanced online?