Online grocery shopping‘s popularity soars

In 2001, shopping online took longer than actually visiting a supermarket yourself, according to those lifestyle gurus at Good Housekeeping.

Now, though, it seems doing the weekly shop on the net is a doddle.

According to a survey by Which? 1,500 e-shoppers found that it takes around half an hour to shop online, compared to an hour and a half in 2001.

On-line grocers that came out top were Ocado - the on-line grocer set up in partnership with Waitrose - and WaitroseDeliver, which were both awarded “gold stars” after they were "consistently rated above average by customers, and they are the clear leaders in overall service".

Tesco ranked well, although those in the survey said that items were frequently missing from orders, whilst Asda was noted for its low prices, but failed to impress on customer service.

Sainsbury's, however, scored "below average" on two thirds of the 21 categories assessed.

Said Which?: "Sainsbury's has a lot to do to catch up with the competition. It was persistently below average. When compared with the service levels offered by Ocado and WaitroseDeliver, we don't think there's any point in putting up with such a mediocre offering."

A spokeswoman for the supermarket told us: "We're shocked by these results as some of the findings were incorrect and they do not reflect the good service Sainsbury's to You offers its customers."

According to Hellen Omwando, an analyst at Forrester Research, "5% of online consumers in the UK now regularly shop for groceries online.

Regularly means at least once in the past three months. That's way more than in Europe where the average is just 2% of online consumers."

This is an indication of the way perceptions of online shopping in general have changed.

Three or four years ago, people seemed to see online and "bricks and mortar" as different things, diametrically opposed even. Now everyone is pushing a more integrated "clicks and mortar", "multi-channel" vision, in which the aim is get your online and offline presence working together.

Omwando says multi-channel integration will work in various ways for groceries. People might shop online then go to a supermarket to collect it, ready packed, from a kiosk.

Alternatively, they might research product availability and offers online, then go to the store to shop.

Now that the services are bedding down and consumers are used to them, most people go online to stock up on big items once or twice a month, then go into the stores every few days for fresh or perishable goods.

Omwando says the picture for online grocery shopping in the UK is relatively healthy. "It won't grow as much as travel but we expect 8% of total retail grocery sales being done online by 2007," she says.

Sources: Forrester Research, The Guardian, The Register

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