Who buys their groceries online, anyway? Pretty much no one

A customer pushes a shopping cart past a 'click and collect' pick-up point inside a Walmart-owned store in the United Kingdom. Some grocers have begun trialing the same service in Canada. Simon Dawson/Getty Images

Buying an Xbox One or Samsung smartphone from eBay or Kijiji is routine in 2015. Picking and choosing fruits and veggies from a digital produce department remains anything but. And there’s little appetite to start doing so.

A new poll shows the vast majority of Canadians have never ordered their food products over the Internet, and most have no plans to start anytime soon.

Mintel, a global research firm, said about one in 10 Canadians have tried ordering grocery items online, making their way on the Web to the few options available to them, likely Amazon or Walmart. Even then, orders consist of non-perishable and household goods.

Not interested

Eighty-eight per cent of respondents said they have never sought out (or stumbled onto) a website selling supermarket fare and placed an order, while roughly 70 per cent said they “are not interested in trying it.”

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“Interest in online shopping for groceries is low,” said Carol Wong-Li, an analyst at Mintel.

MORE: Canadian retailers are getting their butts kicked online

One big problem may not be easily solvable; with good reason perhaps, shoppers want to select their own produce to ensure it’s not going to go bad before it can be eaten. “Resistance to grocery shopping online stems primarily from concerns around the freshness of products,” Wong-Li said.

Another issue is choice. Or lack of it, rather. With a few exceptions, such as Gateway Groceries owned by Longo’s in Toronto, supermarkets have largely avoided pushing into e-commerce. It’s an added cost with limited financial upside.

Home delivery is now widely seen as being too expensive for supermarkets to offer – driver and vehicle costs can quickly trump the value of sales.

An alternative

An alternative is ever so slowly emerging in Canada: click and collect.

Loblaw, the country’s biggest supermarket owner, has begun click-and-collect trials at a handful of locations in Ontario, allowing some customers to place orders they can pick up at the store.

Walmart is doing this too, installing lockers at several Canadian locations customers can pick orders up at. The world’s largest retailer is hoping to leverage what it’s learning from Asda, a U.K. grocer it owns, that’s now rolled out click-and-collect to all of its 592 locations.

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Canada’s grocers are much further down the learning curve compared to Walmart’s U.K. unit. Loblaw plans to introduce click-and-collect at only a few more Superstore locations this year, Galen Weston, head of the supermarket giant, said this week.

“It’s not an easy thing to run a click-and-collect proposition, with a different assortment across multiple different stores,” Weston said. “We’re still very much in the pilot stage.”