Online Retail Model

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Issues Relating to Online Grocery Shopping

Vera Jones B.Sc. (Hons) Accounting – Digital Economy Module 2009, Level 5

|Keywords: Online grocery shopping, consumer attitudes, shopping experience | Introduction

According to Mintel (2009), the UK online grocery market has more than doubled in value during the years 2005-09, influenced by factors such as increased broadband penetration, faster connection speeds, increases in web fluency and the steady increase in online grocers’ geographical coverage and service levels. Nevertheless, online food retailing accounts for only 3% of total UK grocery sales and in general, online shopping for food trails behind that of clothing, footwear and books. Geuens et al (2003) in their study within the Belgian grocery market suggested that consumers perceive shopping for food as a necessity whereas shopping for clothing, for example, is perceived as a relaxing activity. Some sources, such as Aylott and Mitchel (1998) and Huang and Oppewal (2006) propose that grocery shopping online could represent not only an efficient alternative to in-store shopping, but one which also presents a solution to the boredom or ‘chore’ of shopping for groceries. However, the majority of consumers appear still reluctant to use the internet for food shopping, with Mintel (2009) figures reporting just one in nine adults doing so on a regular basis. Indeed, more than half the online population actually never buys groceries online.

This article considers a number of consumer attitudes towards online grocery shopping and aims to provide a better understanding of the reasons for its low level of adoption, recognising some of the diverse views which exist in certain market segments (e.g. those of different age groups, and of regular and non-regular online grocery shoppers). It also touches upon how the leading UK supermarkets try to resolve some negative issues specified by consumers. The article aims to provide a general understanding of consumer attitudes to online grocery shopping, focusing on consumer expectations and concerns regarding the purchasing of food online. It will attempt to achieve these aims by reflecting the broad perspectives which appear to be emerging from the literature. These can be conceptualised as relating to three orientations which have been applied to online grocery shopping; i.e. those emphasising the actual difference in ‘the shopping experience’ of online as opposed to in-store grocery shopping; those highlighting the unique aspects of this form of shopping in comparison to ‘non’ food shopping; and finally, those which tend to focus on the inherent or systemic features of online shopping itself, as applied in this case to the purchase of grocery products.

Online v In Store Experiences

The first of the three broad perspectives which emerge from the literature is the consumer’s perception of the online vs. in-store shopping experience, with particular reference to its application to grocery-oriented shopping. This perspective incorporates issues such as levels of consumer trust, the ability to return unwanted products, access to product information, and the potential for both impulse buying and for social interaction during the shopping experience. It thus considers, essentially, how the experience of the above factors during online grocery shopping compares to those of shopping in-store, and of how any (potentially detrimental) differences between the two may be addressed.

Morganovsky and Cude’s (2000) investigation within the US market has shown that people want an online grocery system to mirror the in-store shopping experience. They expect to be supplied with their favourite brand, their preferred size and the same information which would be present within the in-store system. This comparability of information has also been acknowledged by Mintel (2009), which recognized that the low level of...
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