Online grocery shopping is supposed to be the future of how we buy food. But, are we there yet? Are we ready to give up brick-and-mortar stores and rely on someone else to select our fresh and perishable foods?

A recent survey published in Supermarket News says, despite many online grocery shopping options, consumers still overwhelmingly prefer shopping for food in grocery stores instead of online. Why? According to the survey done by Vixxo, 87 percent of shoppers still prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores for primarily two reasons:

  1. 84 percent like the advantages of being able to inspect and pick out their own products
  2. 60 percent said they simply favor the atmosphere and experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores

There have been a number of surveys on this topic and the results vary but it seems that, when it comes to online grocery shopping, we still have a way to go before we achieve “e-nirvana.”

Is It Just Boomers Avoiding Online Grocery Shopping?

Is the lag in adoption due to Baby Boomers and should we expect Millennials to make the change that puts online grocery shopping over the top?

True, Boomers do prefer the in-store shopping experience but they’re not alone. This preference for in-store shopping spans different age groups. In the Vixxo survey, nearly all Baby Boomers (96 percent) and a significant 81 percent of Millennials say that they prefer the in-store experience over online grocery shopping. As a Boomer myself, I look forward to going to the store. I know some of the clerks in the deli, meat and produce departments pretty well by now. But, beyond the social aspect, the ability to select the head of lettuce I want from the brand I want or compare prices and quality for organic versus non-organic strawberries, is important to me.

Where Does Online Grocery Shopping Fall Short?

I’m not unique in wanting to select my own produce. According to the survey, the ability to personally select food is the key driver of the in-store advantage. Food quality was cited as the most important factor when selecting an item at the grocery store, according to 45 percent of survey respondents.

When it comes to purchasing groceries online, Amazon tops the list of preferred vendors. Probably no surprise there but Amazon has struggled to get its customers to buy fresh, with low customer satisfaction scores and a lot of complaints. Amazon’s  top selling online food items are all shelf-stable including cold beverages, coffee (in fact coffee accounted for seven of Amazon’s 10 best-selling grocery items) snack foods and breakfast foods. Things we can stock up on and that can sit in our cupboards for a while are increasingly good options for online shopping.

It’s All about Trusting the Product is Fresh

Last year, in a Supermarket News article, Dan Bourgault, Instacart’s head of brand partnerships, said “When Instacart was building its business, the top reason people didn’t do online grocery shopping was because they didn’t trust someone else to pick their fresh produce. At the time, research showed that 86 percent of consumers not buying groceries online gave this as their chief reason.”

Instacart overcame this challenge by building trust with their customers. Bourgault explains “The better we get with picking, and then trusting us to deliver the produce the way they want it and the way they like it, that’s how we get customers long-term.”

The Produce Selection Comes to You

Last week, Stop-N-Shop, introduced another intriguing option – driverless vehicles that bring fresh produce directly to your house when summoned by an app. You can then wander out to the curb and select the produce, meal kits and convenience items you want. Stop-N-Shop, a part of Ahold-Delhaize, is planning on piloting this “self-driving grocery store” in Boston (probably because the streets are well paved and easy to navigate, right?).

Stop-N-Shop Mobile Grocery Store

Are you ready for mobile grocery stores?

Making Online Grocery Shopping Work

Until we get to the point of 3D printed vegetables or Star Trek food replicators, I think people will still want to be able to pick their produce and other perishable products – or have them, as Instacart’s Bourgault points out, selected by someone they trust. Until then most of us will continue to visit our favorite local grocery store where we can make our own choices as we shop.

Star Trek Food Replicator

Maybe We’re Not Ready for Food Replicators Either but at Least Scotty Gets Produce!

Either way, whether we buy our produce and perishables online or at a store, we’ll expect that they’re fresh and that they don’t spoil before we consume them. Proactive freshness management solutions help ensure online grocery shopping – along in-store shopping – leads to satisfied customers.