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E-Commerce Presents Opportunity Despite Consumer Worries

Over half of Americans are concerned about the safety of products bought online, according to research from Mintel. Almost eight in 10 consumers are concerned about the freshness of food products they buy online, as just 10% of Americans say they buy fresh produce, meat, poultry and/or fish through e-commerce channels. Saving money is the top reason, at 56%, Americans say they buy food or drink products online, followed by saving time (46%), finding a specific item (45%) and avoiding the store (42%).

Although young Americans have been brought up as digital natives, this age group is most cautious when shopping online, as almost two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds expressed concern about online product safety.

Consumers visit brick-and-mortar stores to determine the safety, quality and freshness of the items they buy in person. While online shopping is becoming more convenient, online retailers still have yet to fully replicate the in-store experience. If more product information is offered online, consumers will likely have less hesitation about adding a product to their online shopping cart and subsequently buying it, said Matt Lindner, senior e-commerce analyst at Mintel.

But there are many benefits to e-commerce.

And it’s not always necessary for retailers and brands to offer the lowest price to draw shoppers online. By offering specific products or selling consumers on the notion that buying online allows them to avoid a trip to the store, and ultimately saves them time, retailers could win significant business through the e-commerce channel, Lindner said.

When it comes to learning about new products, 34% of shoppers who have bought food and drink products online look to family and friends for recommendations. As many as three in 10 food and drink consumers say they do not use online channels to discover new products and brands. Across the U.S., women (48%) are more likely than men (37%) to buy a food or drink product online so they can avoid going to the store.

Last, the growing popularity of meal kit delivery services gives consumers an opportunity to learn about new products they might otherwise not have tried, especially among younger consumers. Nearly one quarter of online food and drink shoppers say they participate in a food/drink subscription box, rising to one third (33%) of shoppers ages 18 to 34.

For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.