Is Online Food Shopping the New 'Convenience Store'?

More Americans buying food, snacks, beverages, staples via e-commerce

NEW YORK -- Online shopping has become a staple for many consumers, and it has moved beyond just clothing and electronics. According to The Harris Poll, 31% of Americans purchased food products online in the past six months, which works out to be 45% of online shoppers purchasing food on the internet, it said. Amazon online snacks

Some, however, have a greater proclivity for online food purchasing than others:

  • Millennials (36% vs. 31% of average Americans)
  • College grads (35% vs. 26% with a high school education or less)
  • Parents (37% vs. 28% of those without kids)
  • Those in an urban setting (38% vs. 30% suburban and 25% rural)

“As manufacturers continue to grapple with the challenges facing their industry around e-commerce, they must ask themselves: How does a consumer making a purchase in a grocery store differ from a consumer making a purchase online? Manufacturers will not only want to know differences in what people buy online vs. in-store, but, more importantly, how people buy online vs. in-store,” said Kathy Steinberg, director of The Harris Poll.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,995 U.S. adults aged 18 and above, surveyed online between June 17 and 21.

Looking to what types of products are purchased, no one category of food prevails. There is only an eight-point spread between the most popular and least popular product purchases, with snacks (20%) and nonalcohol beverages (17%) at the top, and baking products and frozen foods at the bottom (12% each).

Americans say two main factors make a food product a good fit for online purchasing: something that’s nonperishable or has a long shelf life (49%), or a product that’s difficult to find in stores (48%). About 4 in 10 also say something easy to ship (39%), while 3 in 10 say a product they don’t need right away (32%) or something they like to stock up on (31%).

When it comes to the specific brand that ends up on their doorstep, online shoppers are split on whether they only buy brands they already use (32%), are willing to try new, but familiar brands (34%) or are willing to try any brand, even those unfamiliar (34%).

Just 10% of all Americans (29% of online food shoppers) say the habit has replaced some or all of their routine grocery shopping trips. Online food purchasers are most often seeking something special that they can’t find in their grocery store (52%). Another 24% use it as a crutch to replace critical items when they’re running low.

Much like shopping in a traditional grocery store, everyone has their own method for online shopping. Virtual food shoppers are nearly split on whether they use a shopping list (51%) or simply browse (49%) for what will ultimately end up in their shopping cart. However, online browsers are more willing to try new brands (77%) than those who rely on a list (60%).


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