Customer Behaviour

Online grocery shopping in the UK is set to grow more slowly, with customers worried about order problems and delivery charges, research indicates.

Last year, 45% of consumers said they shopped for groceries online, down from 49% in 2016, said analysts Mintel. Mintel also found 42% of older people said they had never bought groceries online and had no interest in doing so.

The survey of 2,000 internet users found that 63% said they had had an issue with an order in the past year.

Mintel’s associate director of retail research, Nick Carroll, said: “Online grocery is, alongside the food discounters, one of the fastest-growing segments within the wider grocery sector.

“However, growth is slowing and the number of users is plateauing as retailers struggle to encourage new customers to try their services.”

Last year, online grocery deliveries made up 7% of the whole sector, with a value of £12.3bn. Mintel said this was forecast to hit 10% by 2023, with sales rising to £19.8bn.

The survey found evidence of a disparity between enthusiastic younger people and sceptical older shoppers who were suspicious of online grocery shopping.

Only 35% of those aged 45 and over had used such services.

Of those who refused to shop online, 73% said they preferred to choose fresh products themselves.

Nearly a quarter – 24% – of reluctant online shoppers thought delivery charges were too high, while 18% did not like being subject to minimum spending levels.

Among those who had used online grocery services, complaints included missing products, late deliveries, incorrect substitutions and receiving goods that were damaged or close to their expiry dates.

Online grocery shopping is an increasingly important factor in the strategies of big food retailers, notably with Marks & Spencer spending £750m to acquire a 50% share of online firm Ocado’s retail business.

However, Mintel’s Mr Carroll also pointed out that not all shopping trends were working in favour of the internet.

He said: “Most importantly, online services are still best suited to the traditional big-basket weekly shop, at a time when consumers are increasingly shopping on a top-up or when-needed basis.”

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