According to the results of an online survey of 1,000 Canadians in August, 92 per cent of respondents said they shopped online but only 15 per cent said they had bought groceries on the web.
While almost 40 per cent of online-shopping spending was linked to entertainment purchases, just four per cent was tied to food and groceries.
“With online shopping in general, even in the past with other categories, there had to be an incentive for customers to try it out, to get away from their usual habits, give it a try. And then if there was some benefit they would try it again,” said Suthamie Poologasingham of J.C. Williams Group Ltd., which looked at the online grocery market in its Canadian E-tail Report.
“I think we’re at that stage with grocery and online.”
Canada lags behind the U.S. and U.K. when it comes to online grocery shopping, added Poologasingham.
“Once they understand there is some convenience behind it—if retailers are able to provide those conveniences and the same products they would provide in store—I think we will see more Canadians getting on board.”
Some companies without physical grocery stores—like Grocery Gateway, which partners with Longo’s in the Toronto area—deliver boxes of groceries, including fresh produce, to the doorsteps of their customers, while IGA, Thrifty Foods and Costco offer some delivery services as well.
Summerhill Market in Toronto teamed up with the delivery service InstaBuggy about six months ago and has seen 30 per cent to 40 per cent growth each month in its online service, said co-owner Christy McMullen.
“I don’t know if everyone will do all of their shopping online. I think they still like the experience of coming in the store, but when you have these big bulky items and you’re in a rush or you don’t have time, then I think online is a really great alternative,” McMullen said.
While books and clothes ordered online can linger on a porch, in an apartment lobby or a mailbox, food has to be packaged carefully to keep from spoiling or bruising.
To get around that, some retailers including Loblaw and Walmart Canada have adopted a click-and-collect program. The customer orders online and then swings by the store to fetch the order.
Jeremy Pee, Loblaw senior vice-president of e-commerce, claims about 80 per cent of customers who try it once return for a second visit.
“We are expecting to see online grocery shopping grow,” said Poologasingham.
“We are seeing from other studies that it is growing, so people are looking at it and trying it out at least once.”
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.