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Consumers not sold on buying produce online

Online grocery shoppers are still wary of buying produce according to a recent study conducted by The Retail Feedback Group. Its 2017 U.S. Online Grocery Shopper Study reported shoppers who indicated anything lower than a five (based on a five-point scale where five was the highest) on the statement, "The items I received met my standards for quality and freshness" were asked to name the department(s) where quality fell short. Produce had the highest percentage of responses at 39 percent.

About eight out of ten online shoppers indicated that freshness and quality were the top factors they consider very important when purchasing produce online. Among those who do not purchase produce online, the top reasons given centered on wanting to choose produce items themselves (66 percent) or that produce items might not be fresh enough (55 percent). Interestingly, the lowest reasons given were that there was limited variety available (16 percent) or that prices might be higher than in the store (14 percent).

The study found about half of online shoppers plan to purchase grocery items more often in the coming year and rate their overall satisfaction ordering food and grocery items online highest with Amazon (4.63), followed by Walmart (4.41) and Supermarkets/Food Stores (4.32). The research also examined generational differences, finding fairly similar overall satisfaction scores across millennials (4.5), Gen X (4.45) and Boomers (4.5).

"Clearly Amazon has effectively leveraged its deep roots in online retailing to inform their efforts in online grocery, leading to the strongest 'highly satisfied' marks found in our research," said Brian Numainville, RFG principal. "Walmart, although registering lower than Amazon on overall satisfaction and on several of the elements measured, also scored meaningfully higher than supermarkets/food stores in several areas core to their brand, including value, as well as identifying and receiving discounts. It appears supermarkets and food stores have work to do to improve their scores in online grocery shopping relative to these retailers."

The study also sought to understand the perceived strengths of grocery shopping online versus in-store. Consumers in the study indicated that online grocery shopping strengths include making the most efficient use of their time and more convenience. On the other hand, in-store shopping strengths registered as providing products best meeting standards for quality and freshness, offering a better selection of products for shopper needs, making shoppers feel more valued as a customer, providing better customer service, showing the company knows and cares about food, and providing more value for the money spent. A few areas including pleasantly surprising, enjoyable, and taking better care of securing payment and personal information, received more of a balanced assessment across both types of shopping.

Doug Madenberg, RFG principal, said, "While our research shows that in-store shopping currently holds a stronger position relative to online grocery shopping in quality and freshness, selection, service and value elements, brick and mortar retailers can't afford to be complacent as online ordering could strive to reshape these areas in the future and negate some of these advantages. Further, retailers operating both online and in-store food retailing channels should leverage the strengths of each to their fullest advantage."