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Almost half UK shoppers have never bought groceries online - and 28% say they never will

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The popularity of online shopping may be well established, but for all that it seems there are still whole categories of goods that many shoppers will not, currently, buy over the internet.

According to a new YouGov poll for VoucherCodes.co.uk, 50% of UK consumers have never bought furniture online, while 49% have yet to buy groceries and 44% health and beauty products.

Not only that, but 28% of the 2,015 British adults who took part said they would never buy groceries online, while 26% wouldn’t buy furniture this way. At the other end of the scale, only 12% said they would never buy holidays online and five per cent said they would never buy DVDs and CDs.

Why not? Some 40% of respondents cited the inability to touch and feel. A third (33%) said a dearth of online information would cause them to buy instore instead. Meanwhile, delivery and returns were a significant barrier: 25% said they were deterred from buying online when it wasn’t possible to arrange a convenient delivery time, while 15% cited slow delivery times. Some 30% do not relish the possibility of a trip to the post office to return an unwanted item, and 21% cited a lack of online customer service.

But some aspects of online shopping are proving very persuasive. Chief among them, the research found, were reviews, ratings or opinions from other customers, cited by 73% of respondents. Only 39% said they would want to tap into the opinion of a professional reviewer or industry expert while shopping.

The research also came up with consumers’ wishlists for shopping online. Two-fifths (40%) wanted a 360 degree product viewer, and 39% free next-day samples before deciding on a purchase. When it comes to delivery, 63% of consumers would like to track their deliveries, 42% would like to use intelligent delivery slots such as ‘after the school run’ or ‘after work,’ and 39% would like to use designated collection and return points, such as a pub or a local shop.

“It’s surprising to see such high levels of reluctance among consumers when it comes to buying online," said Duncan Jennings, co-founder of VoucherCodes.co.uk, "and the main concern seems to be a lack of information from retailers around the products and services they are selling.

“Clearly peer reviews are hugely important to shoppers, but there are lots of other ways retailers can help their customers understand what they are buying.

"Unfortunately, the fact so many consumers still feel uncomfortable transacting online highlights the need for retailers to up their game and improve their customers’ online shopping experience.

"Technologies that have existed for some time, such as 360 degree product viewers, are still not being used efficiently by many websites, meaning consumers simply don’t get the information they need when trying to make a decision.”

Our view: It's only in recent years that shoppers have become willing to shop online for fashion, and this survey presents a useful snapshot of consumer attitude to other types of shopping at this point in time.

It's a useful reminder that right now online shopping still accounts for a relatively small proportion of all retail purchases in the UK, although that's changing in front of our eyes as retailers continue to report rising online and multichannel sales despite flat or even falling offline transactions. We expect that a similar survey in five or 10 years time would see these attitudes transformed. Planning to transform with them is no mean aim for today's retailers. Indeed it's probably a requirement if that move to multichannel shopping is to be achieved for more shoppers.

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