PASADENA, Calif. -- Customers regard a grocer as one entity, regardless of whether they are buying online or off, according to an exclusive consumer study on Internet shopping unveiled last week at the SN/Executive Technology Summit here.
presented at the summit by Jill Frankle, director, e-commerce, retail, for Gomez. The research was commissioned by SN for the event. It also advised retailers and manufacturers to use the Internet to tighten their relationship with consumers. "Consumers may choose to gather information on coupons, recipes or product specials from a grocer or manufacturer online but may then choose to use that information in the offline world," it said.
"Although that dollar may be spent offline, the consumer relationship and overall experience has been enhanced. Longer-term, grocers and manufacturers will be able to mine this information and deliver to consumers targeted promotions, coupons and other content."
Asked how the online buying experienced could be improved, 72.9% of respondents listed better pricing; 58.6% said they wanted to be able to use manufacturer coupons; and 43.2% and 43%, respectively, said they wanted money-back guarantees if products were delivered damaged or incorrectly.
Demand for online coupons is likely to go up significantly over time, the study said, as more price-sensitive shoppers become online customers, "and online grocers must accept manufacturer coupons -- this will quickly become the norm on the Web."
The study also found that 36.6% of respondents want to be able to use their store loyalty cards online, "and online grocers that do not offer a loyalty card are missing the opportunity to lock in a customer, as well as the opportunity to truly offer a multi-channel solution," the study said.
"Customers recognize a grocer as one entity, regardless of whether they are interacting with it online or offline, and the online portion of a grocer must accept loyalty cards if they offer it in their physical stores."
About one-third of respondents said they wanted to see Web sites improved, with 33.2% expressing the hope that sites will become easier to use and 32.8% saying they wished the ordering process could be less time-consuming.
"An online grocer that is not providing a quality customer experience -- including easy navigation and streamlined checkout process -- is negatively impacting customer satisfaction," the study said. "These issues are easily fixed through customer-experience analyses and usability testing."
The study involved approximately 8,000 Internet users, including 10.7% who said they had purchased groceries online at least once in the prior three months; 11% who indicated they had purchased groceries online in the past, though not in the prior three months; and 78.2% who said they had never purchased groceries online.
Packaged dry goods were purchased most frequently (by 60.5% of respondents), followed by snack foods (55.1%), canned foods (53.4%) and personal care products (50.4%). Dairy products were purchased by 43.2% of respondents, paper products by 42.5%, produce by 40.9% and meat by 40.2%.
The study recommended that online retailers offer fresh products that exceed quality expectations on a consistent basis, and that they offer free trials or discounts on perishables "to get some buyers and non-buyers over the virtual hurdle."
With 68.4% of respondents indicating that what they purchased online was products they bought regularly, the study noted, "A successful online grocer needs to promote the convenience-value proposition that is inherent in ordering grocery products online."
Another 36.4% said they used the Internet to buy products they had difficulty finding in traditional stores; 22.8% said they bought bulk sizes or products in quantity; and 21% said they bought products online that they had difficulty carrying home. "These findings are good news for grocers, because it means online grocery buyers are finding value in performing their regular and repeat grocery buying online, and the acquisition of an online grocery buyer very likely means a steady flow of repeat transactions," the study said.