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Every month Lansdowne undertakes a tester of advertising awareness among the Irish population as a whole.

View Article for April 2004

View monthly Adwatch data for January 2003 to March 2004


Are we beginning to see reality break through the hype about the internet? Lansdowne's survey of shoppers suggests that the world as it know is will likely remain the same for some time to come.

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Cyber shopping - But is anyone out there really interested?

James MacCarthy-Morrogh
Lansdowne Market Research

As Internet stocks crash in markets around the world and financiers start to pull the plug on dotcom start ups, are we beginning to see reality break through the hype about the revolutionary nature of the internet in recent years? Could it be that the day to day life of
mankind will progress at something less than the light speed envisioned? Could it even be that the old fashioned 'bricks and
mortar' retail outlets, whose demise was so recently forecast, might
remain with us for some time yet. This month's Lansdowne survey of
shoppers certainly suggests that the world as we have known it is
likely to stay recognisable for some time to come.

The problem with the internet/grocery shopping relationship is that
everyone has to go grocery shopping (or at least every household does) whereas only a quarter of the population ever use the internet and only 15% of people use it once a week or more (Fig 1). Thus Internet penetration and usage presents itself as a large obstacle to the practise of this essential task on-line: any on-line grocery in Ireland thus immediately excludes of its possible customers.

However as internet use is continually rising it is useful to
concentrate on the attitudes of actual internet users to ascertain the possible attractiveness, now and in the future, of the on line
supermarket. Responses amongst this group to the likelihood of their
using the Internet for particular services indicates that the problems facing the on-line grocery extend further than the issue of Internet access alone. On a 'likely to use' scale of various internet based services the Irish internet enabled population ranked grocery shopping as the service they would be least likely to use (fig 2). The more intangible services of holidays and banking emerged as the most promising markets, along with books which have already proved a popular on -line buy. Even clothes come in for more consideration than groceries, despite the obvious difficulty of not being able to try them on. So why the resistance to a medium that holds the prospect of eliminating the need to battle through the supermarket? Why does the convenience of not going to the travel agent once or twice a year not apply equally to the supermarket once a week?

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Oddly a clue may lie in what groceries Internet users claim they would buy on line. Likely on line grocery shoppers with Internet access are a minority group indeed. However their indicated purchasing pattern suggests this method of shopping might not be as convenient as it is intended to be. As with services as a whole there is a distinct divide concerning the type of groceries consumers would be prepared to buy (Fig3). Not surprisingly non-perishable goods, paper-based products, drinks and cleaning products are most likely to attract the cyber shopper. However these future focussed consumers are far more reluctant to consider buying fresh food and to a lesser extent frozen food, on line. Thus the computer will not save them the trip to the supermarket after all and if they make the trip for some goods they are surely likely to buy the rest while they are at it.

However a more obvious answer emerges amongst the great majority who
are unlikely to consider on line grocery shopping. The single most
apparent reason for not wanting to shop on-line is that people
actually enjoy shopping and prefer to go to the supermarket (Fig 4).
With 30% of all those unlikely to shop on-line giving this answer it
must cast some doubt on the assumption that shopping is an
inconvenience and home delivery the cure. Moreover amongst the
unconvinced women this figure rises to 41%. Clearly the Internet is
competing with a social activity when it tries to encroach on the
weekly shop: even a quarter of those who have actually made a purchase
over the net prefer to go to the shop. Security concerns rank next,
however experience appears to create confidence in this regard as
security fears drop from 18% to only 8% among those who have already
purchased on line. The expense, quality concerns and delivery issues
comprise the remaining reluctance to venture into the virtual

Regardless of attitudes to grocery purchasing, one rather more old
fashioned issue may prevent any wide spread uptake of an on line
service. For a credit card is usually as necessary as a PC when making an on- line purchase. As almost 7 in 10 people do not own a credit card another sizeable swathe of the population is automatically excluded from Internet shopping (Fig 5). Thus, even if on line access reaches a level where virtual stores in Ireland are sustainable, a cash - on - delivery option will surely have to be considered to make it viable. After all over 4 in 10 of those who actually are on line don't own a credit card. Whilst the near necessity of a card is highlighted by the high ownership of the few who have bought over the net.

Prospective cyber supermarkets should bear in mind that on top of the logistical issues they must address they are faced with a double
challenge. The first is access to the tools required to visit the
stores; currently a large majority of the population are without a
computer or a credit card - perhaps interactive TV and cash -on
-delivery will solve these issues. However attitudes to high tech
grocery shopping also need to be changed. Currently even those with
the means need to be convinced of the merits of surfing down virtual
supermarket isles instead of trundling down real ones with a trolley.

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