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It’s pretty well known by now that online grocery shopping has its limitations. Many shoppers are okay with the idea of buying nonperishable household goods online, while they’re not so thrilled about having someone else pick out their fresh foods.

That being the case, which are the most popular grocery products sold online – and which are online shoppers unlikely to buy under any circumstances?

The answer is contained in a new report by the retail research company Field Agent, “Groceries 2.0 Revisited: The Rise of Online Grocery Shopping“. A survey of more than a thousand grocery shoppers found that most are actually pretty satisfied with their typical trips to a physical grocery store, and aren’t eager to give up that in-store experience to shift more of their grocery shopping online. “As we stand, potentially, on the brink of a new era in grocery shopping: Does it really need changing?” the report’s authors wonder. “Maybe shoppers are content with the status quo?”

Not necessarily. 62% said they’d like alternatives to in-store grocery shopping. And while a majority is still holding out and has never bought groceries online, 71% predict they’ll be doing it within the next five years.

But “naturally, we can expect shoppers to have some concerns,” the report’s authors write. The biggest concerns that shoppers cited have to do with the quality and freshness of groceries purchased online.

So, not surprisingly, when asked “Which of the following grocery products would you be at least moderately likely to buy online?” the number-one answer was something for which quality and freshness isn’t really a big issue – 74% answered “toothpaste”. Next on the list was feminine hygiene products, cited by 72%, followed by 70% who said over-the-counter medicine.

And which products are least likely to be sold online? Only 25% were willing to buy milk or bananas online, 24% would buy ice cream and 23% would be willing to buy tomatoes online. And dead last on the list was fresh chicken breasts, which only 22% of shoppers would risk purchasing online, sight unseen.

“Grocery shopping has always been, after all, a tactile process — one of squeezing, feeling, smelling,” the report notes. “Will shoppers be willing to leave these practices behind?”

They might – if online grocers are willing to offer some more savings. While most online-grocery-shopping skeptics cited quality concerns (69%) and not being able to see or touch their food before buying it (61%), 58% said the inability to take advantage of coupons, sales and promotions that are applicable in physical stores, was one of the main things preventing them from shopping online.

That echoes the results from Field Agent’s original “Groceries 2.0” study, released in 2015. That report found that an overwhelming 91% of shoppers surveyed said the ability to use coupons, or to take advantage of other in-store discounts, was “very” or “extremely” important to them. Among those who had tried Walmart’s click-and-collect grocery pickup service in particular, the number-one reason shoppers said they would be less likely to use the service again, was the inability to apply coupons to their purchases.

“To reach the masses,” that report noted, “these results suggest online grocers will need to find ways to include online shoppers in sales promotions… so they don’t feel shopping online means sacrificing a good deal.”

Grocery delivery, and buy online/pick up in store, are both more prevalent now than they were two years ago. But when it comes to shoppers’ attitudes, not much has changed in that same period of time. “The majority of shoppers are agreeable toward the idea of buying groceries online,” the 2017 report concludes. But “so far, digital grocery shopping — in all its forms — has yet to hit a noticeable tipping point… Grocery pickup and delivery, for their parts, are still the exception rather than the rule.”

So the internet may represent the future of grocery shopping. But for now, at least, it seems we aren’t ready for the future just yet.

Image source: Amazon

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