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Comment: Online grocery shopping must match in-store experience

Recent research shows that one in four consumers are abandoning online shopping in favour of visiting the physical store. Can multi-channel retailers fight back and regain these disillusioned customers? By Andy Budd


Comment: Online grocery shopping must match in-store experience

It’s not surprising that shoppers are abandoning online grocery shopping in return for a more tangible shopping experience. When companies first started offering online grocery shopping, consumers were wooed by the idea of a hassle-free shop. No longer did they have to struggle to find a parking spot and spend hours ticking things off on their shopping list, only to end up in a long check-out queue. Instead, they could avoid the queues and do their shopping virtually, from the comfort of their own sofa.

Once the novelty wore off, online consumers discovered an altogether different experience. Online shops were so broad and difficult to navigate that it could take almost as long to shop online as in person. Next you have to stay at home, waiting for the delivery to arrive between your two-hour slot. When your groceries do finally arrive you have to deal with produce that is annoyingly close to its sell-by date, or often you are sent an irrelevant or amusing substitution. What's worse, you have to pay up to £5 for this mediocre service. Suddenly shopping in person is starting to look a lot easier and less hassle.

Despite what people say, people actually enjoy the act of shopping. There is a definite social element as well as a visceral one. This is why some of the big brand supermarkets have gone out of their way to design beautiful shopping experiences, with well designed produce displays, build-your-own-pizza bars and destination cafes.

Sadly the online world hasn't caught up, with the major grocery stores offering the same utilitarian experience they always have. So, in order to compete with a physical experience, online stores need to do two things. First of all, they need to make online shopping a lot faster and more convenient. Secondly, they need to design a web experience that, if not fun, is at least pleasing. So, grocery sites need to have better designs, improved product information and more professionally shot images. However, it doesn't have to stop at digital merchandising. Product comparisons and recommendations, nutritional advice, automatic re-orders and better mobile integration all have a part to play.

If online stores can't match the physical experience of shopping, they need to focus on what the web is good at, and fast. Otherwise shopping online will continue to feel like a poor substitute, with none of the benefits of the real world, but all the impersonality and frustrations that come with a badly designed web experience.

Andy Budd is Managing Director, Clearleft

The Retail Bulletin is organising their 2nd Multichannel Summit, to be held in London February 2nd 2011. The event is sponsored by k3 retail and will look at how retailers can maximize profits, market share and loyalty through cost effective, seamless, integrated multichannel strategies.
If you would like to attend as either a delegate or Networking Partner, go to

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