No one in the US thinks twice about buying a book or DVD online, but when it comes to groceries, that’s a whole different mind set.
According to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Survey, only 20% of Americans said they were likely to try online grocery shopping. Compare that to Asia where 77% of the respondents said they were happy to have their dinner ingredients delivered. The numbers were also pretty high for the Middle East/Africa (48%) and Latin America (51%) all saying they were likely to shop for groceries online for home delivery.
It’s funny because ordering groceries to be delivered is actually an age-old concept. Watch episodes of The Donna Reed Show, I Love Lucy or Leave it to Beaver and you’ll see the grocery boy dropping off a box at the house. Sometimes he even comes in and helps put it all away. I grew up with a milkbox on my porch, which was routinely filled with fresh bottles, plus bread, eggs and other goodies. And don’t get me started on the Charlie Chip man who delivered cans of potato chips and pretzels every other week.
So why are Americans so opposed to buying groceries online? Nielsen’s Director Retailer Industry Insights suggests that it’s because there are too many physical grocery stores in the US. We also have more access to cars and public transportation and fewer moms are at home watching the kids. Grocery shopping is easy. I have six major chain stores within ten minutes of my home and even more stop and shops if I just need a gallon of milk or a soda.
But is that the real reason we resist buying our groceries online or is it more of a visceral thing? A can of Campbell’s soup is a can of Campbell’s soup, but what about a steak or a bag of apples? Would you trust some picker in a store to choose the best of the lot?
For me, it’s all about the price point. In a store, I can take advantage of sales and redeem coupons in order to get the best deal. I can’t do that online. Then you add in the delivery fee, issues of out of stock items, and other logistics and it’s simply not worth the effort. Sure, it saves me a trip out of the house and I don’t have to carry the groceries. That would have been a real boon when I lived in a second story walk-up with a newborn baby. But now, grocery shopping is actually one of my favorite activities. I admit that I’m probably in the minority there which brings me right back to my question. Why aren’t people buying groceries online?
The Nielsen report also examined the idea of the online/offline hybrid. Buy online, then pick it up at the store. Globally, only 27% of respondents said they’d be willing to pick up their order curbside, only 30% agreed to a drive-up window, and oddly, 36% said they were willing to go inside a store to get what they bought online.
I’ve no doubt that eventually, more Americans will be buying their daily bread online for delivery to their home. Once it becomes popular, we’ll all sit around and talk about how modern technology has changed the way we buy groceries. By then, everyone will have forgotten about how Donna Reed used to buy her groceries and have them delivered using an instrument called the home telephone.