CASTING A WIDER NET

Who is shopping for groceries on-line?Gomez Advisors (www.Gomez.com), a Lincoln, Mass.-based Internet research firm, the average on-line grocery shopper is affluent, white collar, female and well-educated. But while this demographic drives significant revenues, in order to catch more customers e-grocers must cast a wider net, Gomez reported.Gomez based its study on a survey of 20,000 Internet users.

Who is shopping for groceries on-line?

Gomez Advisors (www.Gomez.com), a Lincoln, Mass.-based Internet research firm, the average on-line grocery shopper is affluent, white collar, female and well-educated. But while this demographic drives significant revenues, in order to catch more customers e-grocers must cast a wider net, Gomez reported.

Gomez based its study on a survey of 20,000 Internet users. Due to high Internet penetration and a number of offerings, California boasts the most on-line shoppers, Gomez said.

Customer-acquisition is one of the major hurdles, the study showed. Noting that the first on-line shopping trip can take as long as one hour, the report pointed out customers are more likely to buy products at a less-complex Web site before trying groceries, the study said. Only 4% of on-line grocery buyers made groceries their first on-line transaction.

Convenience, however, remains the most important aspect of on-line grocery shopping in the minds of consumers. Of those surveyed, 80% said the ease of on-line shopping drew them to the Internet.

On-line groceries still must overcome customers' desires to see and handle an item prior to buying it, Gomez said. Nearly one-third of people who had shopped an on-line grocer but not made a purchase said an inability to see and feel a product influenced their decision.

Customers surveyed said that Webvan, Foster City, Calif., obtained top overall ranking among e-grocers. The site was lauded for not only saving time, but for allowing consumers to make better food decisions, Gomez said. Netgrocer.com, North Brunswick, N.J., had the broadest presentation and Shoplink.com, Westwood, Mass., is leading the high-end unattended-delivery arena, according to the survey.

Spotting The On-line Buyers

The table below compares the demographic breakdown between "motivated on-line buyers" and all grocery shoppers, as researched by Gomez Advisors, Lincoln, Mass. Gomez defines a motivated buyer as one who buys more frequently and spends more on-line. The motivated buyer is the largest revenue-driver for on-line shopping sites.