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Online shoppers go for grog over groceries

By RJ Whitehead , 19-May-2014

More Australians buy alcohol online than groceries, though still less than one in 50 consumers click products into their virtual supermarket trolleys each month, according to the latest data by Roy Morgan.

Last year, around 357,000—or 1.9%—of Australians shopped for online groceries in an average four-week period, up from 1.6% in 2012. At the same time, 2.2% (426,000) bought alcohol online, although this figure is only up by 0.1% since 2012.

At 3%, the 35-49-year-old group is the most likely to buy alcohol online. Those aged 25-34 are the most likely to buy groceries online (3.2%), although just 1.8% of them buy alcohol on the web.

Demographic disparity

Comparing the age demographics of the two markets reveals a marked dissimilarity. One in two online alcohol buyers are aged over 50; however this group comprises just under one-quarter of online supermarket shoppers. The reverse is true of 25-34 year-olds, who make up over double the proportion of grocery buyers (30%) than they do alcohol buyers (14%).

Warren Reid of Roy Morgan Research says the results are surprising.

Intuitively you would think the supermarket industry—being more than five times the size of the alcohol industry—would have more online customers, but that is not the case,” Reid said. 

The grocery industry rakes in over A$95bn [US$89bn] annually from around 12.5m customers, compared with almost 9m alcohol buyers spending A$17bn [US$16bn] a year.

Pressure on supermarkets

Both Coles and Woolworths supermarkets have been trying to build their online operations for more than 10 years. But despite internet usage and online shopping becoming mainstream, online supermarkets still attract only a tiny proportion of grocery shoppers.

One challenge for online supermarkets is that there are two very dissimilar customer types most inclined to buy groceries online and have them delivered to the door: stay-at-home mums with young children, or high-earning professionals and managers,” Reid added.

The key to online success for both Coles and Woolworths will be to extend the appeal of website ordering and home delivery to a wider customer base of people for whom regular online grocery shopping could be a valued convenience rather than a necessity.”

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