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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : June 22, 2011

Online grocery shoppers in UK head back to the aisles

Lifestyle "triggers" prompt many in the UK to shop for their groceries online, reveals a study from researchers at Kingston University, but disappointing levels of service and reversals in the situation that triggered them to shop online in the first place soon drive them back to the store.

by Helen Leggatt

The UK may be renowned for its advanced online market, with 10% of shopping taking place over the Internet, but grocery shopping only accounts for 3.2%. Why? Because, found research by Kingston University's Faculty of Business and Law, people aren't consistently doing their grocery shopping online.

"When someone starts buying books or music online they don't normally stop and go back to bookshops or CD sellers. But that's exactly what is happening with many online grocery shoppers," one of the researchers, Dr Chris Hand, said.

The research found that certain "triggers" such as having a baby, incapacity due to illness or injury, or moving to a new area can motivate consumers to do their grocery shopping online.

However, once that situation has reversed, many consumers go back to shopping in-store.

The drive to shop in-store is exacerbated by disappointing levels of service, found the research. Non-delivery, incorrect orders, strange substitutions, and less than acceptable produce are all reasons given for abandoning online shopping and heading back to the supermarket aisles.

There is one glaring problem with shopping for food online and that is that grocery shopping is, for most, a very personal experience and one that is hard to replicate satisfactorily with a stranger's eye. As Xanthe Clay of the Telegraph observes, "That's why we need to be hands-on with our shopping and choose the level of yellow-green of our banana skins, the shape of our fish fillets, the amount of fat on our steak, or the sell-by date on our milk."

It looks like it will take more imagination on the part of supermarkets to keep customers shopping from their computers. The research suggests improving the service provided, cutting down on delivery fees or providing a monthly subscription change in its place, and providing special offers for online customers only. However, none of those suggestions can overcome the special relationship consumers have with food.

Tags: customer service, grocery shopping, online shopping, supermarket, UK

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