5 MYTHS ABOUT ONLINE FOOD SHOPPING BUSTED

Online shopping is vastly outstripping its real-life equivalent in some areas of retail-books, DVDs and music being the most high-profile examples and, according to the Institute of Grocery Distribution, online grocery shopping is expected to follow suit.

In fact, the entire grocery industry is predicted to boom in the next five years, with a forecasted growth of 21.3% by 2018, which ought to take its value from £169.7bn to £205.9bn, and IGD claim that online food shopping will be one of the main channels driving that growth. It’s on the up, then Yet in the meantime, many people are still wary of doing their food shopping online, with usage tailing off with age and many shoppers still predominantly loyal to the offline market. What is it, then, that deters customers from buying their food online?

Myth: the food won’t be fresh

Fact: While the IDG reckon that concerns about freshness is the main barrier that stops people from buying their food online, the perception that you’ll get a second-rate batch of goods is no more than that? a perception. For a start, the same EU food-safety regulations apply to online grocery shopping ordered from home as they do to ‘real’ stores, and as long as the company you order from is based within the EU, your order will be subject to the laws of that country, laws that are in turn all based on the same EC Directives as UK laws – all of which means that no matter where you purchase it, your food ought to be appropriately packaged and adhere to local trading standards.

So if you feel that your delivery was substandard or didn’t match up to what was advertised, you’ve got every right to complain. All that said, though, retailers are enormously keen to keep their online customers, and they make every effort to supply you with the freshest produce. It will likely be delivered in refrigerated trucks, as appropriate, and within a short timeslot. Ocado have a freshness guarantee and try to make the whole process as transparent as possible, displaying next to each product the minimum product life they guarantee it from delivery, and their goods are also all kept in a chilled warehouse. Tesco allow you to specify ripeness in a note to the store when you checkout.

Myth: choice of outlets is limited

Fact: Most of the major grocery outlets in the UK will be providing online services by early 2014. While Waitrose has been perhaps the most visible face of online grocery shopping to date thanks to their affiliation with Ocado, Tesco and Asda also have strong market shares. In early 2013, Sainsbury reported online sales up 15%. Morrisons, who saw sales drop last Christmas and attributed that to their lack of online service, are now expected to launch their own facility by January, and The Co-operative plans to start a trial service in the lead-up to Christmas.

Myth: I’m limited to the chain stores.

Historically, that’s probably been the case, but while the big supermarkets are all rushing to get online, smaller retailers are also signing up, and that includes suppliers of organic goods, with veg boxes being a good case-study. Riverford Organics, for example, is an online veg box delivery service whose profits grew to £1.36m in 2011/12, and its key strengths aren’t limited to organic produce – its founder, Guy Watson, is also proud of working with local farmer suppliers on long contracts and of delivering high quality produce that’s taste-tested by his staff to compare it with competitors. The moral? Online shopping can be ethical and local as well as fresh and tasty.

Myth: it’s more expensive

There’s a perception that an online shopping cart will cost more than its real-life equivalent, mainly because the shopper won’t see the same range of special offers and stickered goods as they would in-store, and because there might be a delivery charge. In fact, delivery charges vary hugely, and they’re not always that bad. To take three examples: Waitrose will deliver for free if you spend over £50, Asda’s prices differ according to the time and day you’d like to receive your shopping, and Tesco have a payment plan scheme, whereby you pay in advance for several months worth of deliveries, making it cheaper than a one-off event. Aside from delivery, though, all the big stores promise to match their in-store prices, special offers included, and Asda even promise to be 10% cheaper than several of their rivals. Remembering that you’re not so likely to succumb to impulse till-point purchases online, the delivery cost is likely to be offset by your shopping cart savings, making the online experience no more expensive than the real-life one.

Myth: I’ll be left short

You say, ‘If the online store doesn’t have what I want, I’ll just have to pop out to get it anyway!’ We reply, ‘Oh, no, you won’t!’ Most online food retailers will offer a substitution service, whereby they’ll swap your out-of-stock item with an in-store equivalent, much as you would yourself if you visited the brick-and-mortar store. Tesco offer you the option of leaving a note for your ‘picker’, specifying what you want if a particular item isn’t available. If something on your list has gone out of stock by the time your Sainsbury personal shopper gets to it, they’ll substitute it and place that substitution in a special blue bag so that you’ll spot it immediately; if you’re not happy, you can hand it straight back to the driver and arrange for a refund. Generally, though, the substitution scheme means that you won’t have to supplement your online purchases with a trip to the corner shop. And because you can browse the virtual aisles in relative peace and quiet, and review your list before you go to the checkout, you’re less likely to forgot any essential items. All of which means that online food shopping is easier to plan and it won’t leave you short.

There’s no doubt that the online food shopping market is getting bigger by the day. And with myths like this being busted that’s a trend, we think, is set to continue.