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E-commerce angst

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CHICAGO — While online shopping is almost universal in the U.S., more than half (53%) of Americans are concerned about the safety of products bought online, according to new research from Mintel. The study revealed that young consumers are exercising the greatest caution when shopping online, with almost two-thirds (63%) of 18- to 24-year-olds expressing concern about online product safety.

But it’s not just product safety that is worrying shoppers, as almost eight in 10 (78%) consumers are concerned about the freshness of food products they buy online. While online grocery shopping has been on the rise, it appears that freshness is a significant barrier, as just 10% of Americans say they buy fresh produce, meat, poultry and/or fish online.

Despite the fact that consumers are spending more time and money online, trust remains a hurdle for online retailers to clear, particularly for younger consumers. Some 14% of all online food and drink consumers cite trust as an issue that has prevented them from adding a product to an online shopping cart, with this number rising to almost one in five (17%) 18- to 34-year-olds. What’s more, many Americans are deterred by the lack of ability to test the value of the product for themselves, as 69% of consumers overall are hesitant to buy something that they can’t see or touch in advance and three-quarters (75%) prefer to sample products before purchasing.

“Americans are exercising caution when shopping online, as they believe that purchasing in-store is the most trustworthy way to determine the safety, quality and/or freshness of the items they buy,” said Matt Lindner, senior e-commerce analyst at Mintel. “While online shopping is becoming more convenient, online retailers have yet to fully replicate the in-store experience of discovering a product in person. As a result, retailers have to go above and beyond in terms of offering more product information and anticipating any potential concerns from shoppers. In doing so, consumers will have less hesitation about adding a product to their online shopping cart and subsequently completing a purchase,” he added.

It’s no secret that many consumers go online looking for a good deal. In fact, saving money (56%) is the top reason Americans said they buy food or drink products online.

Much has been said about women and the shopping experience; however, it seems that grocery shopping is something of an exception. Across the U.S., women (48%) are more likely than men (37%) to buy a food or drink product online so they can avoid going to the store. And it seems that moms are also appreciating the convenience of online grocery shopping, as they are the most likely group overall to purchase food and drinks online in order to avoid the store (52%). Moms are also the most likely to say they purchase food and drinks online to save time (56%).

“Retailers and brands don’t always have to offer the lowest price in order to get shoppers to buy online, rather than in-store. Offering specific products or selling consumers on the fact that buying online allows them to avoid a trip to the store, and ultimately saving them time, could be enough to win business. Reordering options such as Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program can appeal to busy women, and moms in particular, who seek the convenience of replenishing regularly purchased items online, and are looking for an option that saves them from running the risk of missing out on an essential item by rushing through grocery shopping,” he explained.

While the U.S. may be a nation of online shopping addicts, today, as many as three in 10 (30%) food and drink consumers said they do not use online channels to discover new products and brands, rising to 35% of beauty consumers. In fact, word of mouth is proving to be more effective than digital tools when it comes to encouraging consumers to ultimately purchase products. Shoppers who have bought food or drink products online say that recommendations from family and friends (34%) and coming across products while searching for something else (33%) are the top ways that they learned about the last food or drink product they bought online.

Finally, meal kit delivery services and beauty subscription boxes also present an opportunity for consumers to learn about new products they might otherwise not have tried, especially among younger consumers. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of online food and drink shoppers say they participate in a food/drink subscription box, rising to one-third (33%) of 18- to 34-year-old shoppers. What’s more, 18% of online beauty shoppers say they participate in a beauty subscription box, rising to 30% of shoppers 18 to 34.

“Ultimately there is no substitute for the endorsement from a family member or friend when it comes to potentially spending money on a new item. This creates an opportunity for retailers to increase their word-of-mouth marketing by investing more in digital advertising or rewarding consumers that refer others in the form of loyalty points or discounts on future purchases.”


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