How to Get Fresh Produce Into Online Baskets

ordering fresh produce online

Photograph: Shutterstock

What gets fresh produce into consumers’ online grocery baskets? As part of the Produce Marketing Association’s series of global consumer insights reports, we recently commissioned research fielded by leading market-research firm Ipsos to help our members better understand the factors that go into answering that question. The “E-Commerce Insights Report: Online Shopper Sentiment” explores consumers’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors when purchasing fresh produce through e-commerce. Armed with insights about what consumers value most in the online shopping experience, retailers and suppliers can better position produce online to capture consumers’ interest and help move more fresh fruits and vegetables into digital baskets.

Global consumers’ continually climbing convenience expectations make online grocery shopping an attractive option even as they resume more in-person activities and schedules. Convenience and good pricing—which encompasses both attractive everyday prices and special promotional pricing—are top motivators that consumers cited as influences on their online purchases. Leveraging these drivers can help increase online fresh produce sales.

But to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the consideration set, retailers and their supply chain partners must mitigate consumers’ top concerns about purchasing fresh produce online: namely, concerns about product quality and service fees associated with buying online. Customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and China, in particular, said they had had problems with online orders and deliveries of fresh produce in the past. Consumers seem to place responsibility for addressing these issues with their order-picking and delivery provider, as most consumers indicated that an order problem wouldn’t dissuade them from buying produce online again but would prompt them to switch to another provider. By contrast, consumers said delivery fees are a deterrent to ordering online in the first place, suggesting that they expect this service for free.

Given the high cost of acquiring a shopper, successfully managing fresh produce fulfillment and delivery is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

On the quality front, leading consumer concerns include uncertainty about the shelf life of produce purchased online and doubt that the produce someone else selects for them is the produce they would have selected themselves.

To get more produce into online shopping carts, retailers and suppliers need to address both the drivers and the deterrents affecting consumers’ online purchase decisions. Consider the following to influence preferences and purchases.

  1. Alleviate concerns about the quality and shelf life of fresh produce by highlighting the expertise of the fulfillment shoppers and their ability to select the freshest items. Add features to the product packaging that help fulfillment shoppers choose the freshest items.
  2. Explore opportunities to make the online shopping experience more seamless, satisfying and rewarding. Examine how your product, brand and/or team provides shoppers what they most value in the online shopping experience and show them how they can leverage produce to fulfill their quest for inspiration and exploration in eating.
  3. As children are home from school for the summer and many adults continue to work from home, help shoppers maximize the value of their purchases by providing inspiration for how to incorporate fresh produce into meal and snack occasions throughout the day.

Eileen O’Leary is market research manager for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).


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