A new report from Field Agent finds that produce is a popular category for online grocery shoppers in both planned and unplanned purchases. Sixty-five percent of the consumers surveyed said they bought fresh produce, making it the top choice along with chilled dairy products. Thirty-one percent said they bought fresh fruits and vegetables on impulse, beating out snacks (23%) and candy (14%). However, 39% of digital shoppers didn't buy fresh produce online because they prefer to inspect it in person.
The firm found 59% of shoppers surveyed used Walmart store pickup to make their purchases, while 15% bought through Kroger — either through its ClickList click-and-collect service or Instacart delivery. AmazonFresh scored 7% of orders, while Whole Foods delivery through Instacart received just 1% of orders.
The survey results — part of Field Agent's most recent "Digital Shopper" report — was based on post-shopping surveys of 451 online shoppers. Each participant completed it right after buying at least $30 of groceries and/or household consumables from an online retailer for local pickup or in-town delivery.
Although studies in the past have found that shoppers prefer to buy produce and other perishables in-store, Field Agent's report indicates that people are, in fact, very comfortable with purchasing their fruits and veggies online.
This points to improved marketing and logistical measures grocers have taken to reassure online shoppers of the quality and safety of their produce. High-quality pictures and content can go a long way, of course, but some retailers and e-commerce services have taken the extra step of letting shoppers communicate with in-store pickers to make sure they get the right selections, special instructions and so on.
Grocers and providers like Instacart and Shipt have also improved their logistics and handling and are taking care to train employees on how to best select and handle produce. Managers at FreshDirect, the pure-play grocer that delivers in several Northeastern states and the Washington, D.C., area, rate their produce every morning on a scale of one to five stars, giving shoppers a supposedly no-frills look at the freshness of their strawberries, cherries and heads of broccoli.
Walmart, meanwhile, is fully aware that some shoppers are reluctant to buy perishable groceries online. The company recently filed a patent for technology that shows 3-D images of in-store items to shoppers before they buy, so they have a better idea of what they're getting.
It's interesting to note Walmart's head-and-shoulders victory over other services in securing online orders among Field Agent's shoppers. This points to the effectiveness of Walmart's click-and-collect rollout, with hundreds of stores now offering the service and many more coming online this year. The service is free to use, which isn't cheap for Walmart, but has clearly gained valuable market share in online grocery.
As demand for online grocery shopping continues to accelerate, grocers will have to keep their e-commerce offerings competitive and also effectively utilize their stores for omnichannel shopping. According to Field Agent, 55% of shoppers said they were "completely or very likely" to make a supplemental trip to a physical store to complete their orders. Thirty-three percent said they were uncomfortable buying certain items online, while 37% said they plan to. This cross-shopping trend will likely continue since many people patronize different stores to take advantage of a variety in selection or certain coupons or sales.
Produce could play a very important role in keeping shoppers loyal across channels. According to Field Agent, 70% said they plan to buy from this category during their follow-up trip to the store.