online grocery

Online grocery supplementing physical shopping, not replacing

Online grocery shopping has seen increased uptake during the COVID-19 pandemic but it appears that has mainly been as a supplementary option alongside in-store shopping, rather than a replacement for it.

More than half (53 per cent) of Canadians are now doing some of their grocery shopping online, while an additional 30 per cent say they are open to the idea, according to a new study by research firm Field Agent Canada.

However, The State of Digital Grocery study found that but brick-and-mortar remains king.

97 per cent of respondents continue to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, but many of them now use e-commerce as well. 45 per cent shop online or via an app for in-store pickup and/or home delivery, and 38 per cent shop online or in-app for curbside pick-up.

While Field Agent said the numbers for online grocery are “promising,” few shoppers are going all-in on ecommerce. Only 9 per cent of respondents indicated they make more than half of their purchases online or through an app.

Chief among shoppers’ concerns over online purchasing is in the quality of goods. While 64 per cent indicated they would be willing to buy a low-risk product like toothpaste, only one-third said they would be willing to buy milk online and just one-quarter would buy tomatoes online.

Indeed, 64 per cent of respondents said the inability to pick out the groceries they receive would prevent them from ordering online, while 63 per cent worry about not being able to take advantage of in-store discounts. More than half (53 per cent) were put off by the service and delivery fees associated with online shopping, while 40 per cent cited concerns about inaccuracy of orders.

The study found that possibly the biggest challenge for online grocery services moving forward is creating awareness and building customer affinity. “[S]tanding out from the crowd is the most challenging aspect of online retail for many brands,” it said.

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However, all in all, it does look as though the trend towards online shopping will continue to a certain extent. Nearly three-fifths (57 per cent) of respondents said they planned to make fewer trips to the store in general and the same percentage said they expect to do more shopping online.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent said they would shop more using home delivery, and 54 per cent said they expected to shop more using in-store pick-up.

These findings are based on interviews with 1,000 Canadians across the country conducted between June 3 and June 7, 2021.