Breaking Down Barriers To E-commerce Growth in Consumables

Breaking Down Barriers To E-commerce Growth in Consumables

By and large, consumers have always been hands-on when it comes to shopping for consumables. We squeeze the Charmin, smell the flowers and check for cracked eggs before heading to checkout. That’s why it comes as no surprise that a recent Nielsen online survey found that the highest-growth product categories for online purchase intentions include e-books, event tickets, computer software, sporting goods and music.

While the online market for buying groceries and many other consumables is smaller by comparison, it is starting to show promise. When it comes to growing an online shopper base for consumable categories, knowing what drives behavior is vital to increased engagement. And, of course, not all shoppers want the same things.

While some shoppers treasure convenience and are less risk averse, others need research and reassurance before making a purchase. Still others are bargain hunters, always on the search for a good deal. And then there are the skeptics. For these cynical shoppers, overcoming negative online perceptions can be the difference between a doubter and a devotee.

Regardless of shopper classification, when it comes to shopping online for consumable products, the experience must be convenient, cost-effective and safe. Companies that address these critical, universal components will be best-positioned for online success.


Online shopping for these global respondents is convenient (76%) and fun (64%). They like getting email notifications from retailers (46%), and they manage their grocery lists using a mobile app or via an online tool (35%). As these shoppers represent active online participants, marketers should leverage a full suite of online strategies to keep them engaged. Offering tools that remember past purchases, and providing flexible return policies and pick-up options will help keep these shoppers coming back for more.


Knowledge is king for these global online shoppers who like to read online reviews prior to purchasing a product (71%). They spend a considerable amount of time researching products before buying (61%). Social media is a helpful tool in reaching these consumers who often connect with friends, family and strangers to help make purchase decisions (43%). To satisfy their need for knowledge, offer detailed product descriptions and product images. Posting review forums and product reviews will help to build trust.


Savvy savers are always on the hunt to find the lowest prices. These global shoppers believe they get the best prices online (60%), and they find deals that are better than those offered in the store (54%). They subscribe to product and store emails to stay informed and to save money (54%), and they use price-saving apps or websites when planning a shopping trip (47%) and when in the store (42%). When reaching these consumers, consider pricing and promotion strategies that are competitive with or better than in-store offerings. Offer online coupons and free shipping delivery options to help keep costs low for these shoppers.


Privacy and security are worries for these global respondents who are wary of giving their credit card information online (48%). To help alleviate concerns, assure shoppers that their information will be kept confidential by including security notifications at checkout. Shipping costs (38%) and confusing websites (33%) are other barriers for these skeptical shoppers. Free shipping is important here, too, as is clarity of presentation.

To increase digital engagement, then, retailers must deliver on multiple shopper needs for lower prices, quality choices and peace of mind. Websites that are easy to navigate, offer a wide selection of easily inspected products and provide proper security protocols at checkout are essential when hoping to connect with the global online shopper.

The report also discusses:

  • Online browsing vs. buying intentions.
  • A look at which product categories are growing in online purchase intent.
  • Regional growth opportunities and strongholds for e-commerce.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Survey of E-commerce.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access across 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.