Despite the undeniable convenience of shopping online, U.S. consumers prefer brick-and-mortar stores when it comes to ensuring product quality, recently released research from Mintel indicates.
More than half (53%) of Americans are concerned about the safety of products bought online, according to Mintel. And although young Americans have been brought up as digital natives, Mintel reveals that these 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.
Freshness of food
But it’s not just product safety that is worrying shoppers, as almost eight in ten (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/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,” says Matt Lindner, senior ecommerce analyst at Mintel. “While online shopping is becoming more convenient, online retailers still have yet to fully replicate the in-store experience of discovering a product in person.”
While the U.S. may be a nation of online shopping addicts, today, as many as three in ten (30%) food and drink consumers say 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/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.
Product discovery through subscriptions
The growing popularity of meal kit delivery services and beauty subscription boxes also presents 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 shoppers aged 18-34. What’s more, 18% of online beauty shoppers say they participate in a beauty subscription box, rising to 30% of shoppers aged 18-34.
“Online stores have grown increasingly sophisticated in terms of spotlighting product details in order to better inform shoppers; however, there ultimately is no substitute for the endorsement from a family member or friend when it comes to potentially spending money on a new item,” concludes Lindner. “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. Additionally, while adoption of subscription boxes is still relatively low, those who do participate in food and/or beauty subscription box services represent an audience that retailers can introduce to new products and brands, and, thus, spur new brand loyalties.”