Is online shopping ready for checkout?

12/30/2013 09:23:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom Karst, National EditorTom Karst, National EditorI saw a link on the Drudge Report the day after Christmas that the “Christmas overload” of online shopping resulted in some unfulfilled promises for deliveries from online marketers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Shelly Banjo wrote in the story “Shipping overload leaves many giftless” that “many shoppers are blaming online retailers for stealing Christmas.”

Online companies Amazon.com, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart overpromised and under delivered, resulting in some empty wrapped presents with only a promise of the coming gift.

That was not my experience. I ordered a several things from Amazon on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 and received them all before Christmas Eve night. Being a member of Amazon Prime, the selections were sent without a shipping charge.

The bliss I felt in ordering these items online was wonderful. I didn’t have to point my car to the vast and un-welcoming mall, with its slushy parking lots, distracting crowds, over-picked merchandise and long checkout lines. The packages arrived on my doorstep magically, as if delivered by brown-clad elves.

I have to admit I like this online shopping. It suits me.

But does it suit consumers of fresh produce? The expansion of Amazon Fresh into the San Francisco market grabbed headlines recently and sparked conversation about the future of online retailing of fresh foods and grocery items.

In coverage for The Packer, I talked with Bill Bishop, chief architect of Brick Meets Click and chairman of Barrington, Ill.-based Willard Bishop Consulting, about the emergence of online retailing. He said online buying and home delivery may appeal to a mix of customers, including time-starved working parents, millienials and some older shoppers.

Yes, but is online ordering and home delivery really poised to become a viable business model? It appears so, more and more.

Statistics from Brick Meets Click show about 11% of shoppers have purchased food online in the past month. Online grocery shopping accounts for about 3% of purchases across all banners now, but that share could expand to anywhere from 7% to 17% by 2023, according to projections from Brick Meets Click.

I recently asked members of The Packer Market for their observations about online retailing.

The question I posed was this: How big will online shopping/home delivery be for fresh foods in the next 15 years? Will Amazon Fresh become dominant online fresh food retailer?

Here are a few excerpts of what was said in that forum.


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