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Give up brick-and-mortar? Shoppers say “not yet”

Online grocery shoppers prefer an omnichannel approach, NPD says

More Americans are going online for groceries nowadays, yet stores remain central to the shopping equation, according to The NPD Group.

About 10% of U.S. consumers regularly buy groceries online, NPD said Wednesday. Still, grocery purchases have been slower to migrate online than other consumer categories. NPD’s research finds that 99% of online grocery customers still go to brick-and-mortar stores to shop for groceries.

The reason: common preferences and logistical challenges that come with buying food and beverages, NPD said. Shoppers cited the need to pick fresh items themselves and not wanting to pay delivery fees as the top obstacles to buying groceries online.

Meanwhile, 46% of consumers who are “lapsed online grocery shoppers” or have never shopped online said walking through a store helps remind them about items they need. The same percentage of non-online grocery shopping enthusiasts reported that they think it’s faster to just go to the store and get what they want.

“With major brick-and-mortar grocery stores announcing click-and-collect and various speedy delivery options, the line between physical and online is blurring,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at NPD. “As a result, consumers are getting the best of both worlds.”

Frequently cited benefits of online grocery shopping include not needing to leave home, the ability to compare prices more easily, faster transactions and not having to wait in line. But NPD said these may not be enough to sway customers to do all of their grocery shopping online.

As a result, grocery may follow the same online retail path as categories like electronics, where shoppers want to see items in person and then be able to choose to buy in-store or go back online for the purchase, NPD said, noting that many major grocery retailers already are offering such an omnichannel approach.

“There is also a place for pure-play e-commerce grocers,” Seifer added. “But it looks like, as of now, consumers want a seamless experience between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.”

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