Have you ever bought toilet paper online? Or shampoo? How about toothpaste? While we are more than happy to buy books, apparel, and electronics online, we have been reluctant to purchase our everyday household essentials online. But this is changing. While only 8 percent of consumers surveyed in the Fall 2011 Online Shopper Intelligence™ survey reported buying household products online in the past 3 months, more than 15 percent said they plan to purchase these items online in the next 6 months.
Helping fuel this trend is the immergence of auto-replenishment programs that enable consumers to buy a product once and have it delivered automatically in the time interval of their choosing. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save is one of the more popular programs, attracting over 1 million visits a month, up from 0.5 million last year.
Of the consumers surveyed, 56 percent were aware of auto-replenishment programs, 12 percent currently use them and an additional 22 percent would consider using them in the future. The most popular item to buy via auto-replenishment is household essentials, followed close behind by groceries, health & beauty products, and baby supplies.
While these programs are growing in popularity, some consumers are still reluctant to jump aboard. More than half of these consumers reported that they did not want to be locked in to a price or product and, instead, prefer to shop around for the best deal. Not knowing how frequently they use items was also stated as a common reason for not wanting to try auto-replenishment programs. Convenient in-store shopping, brand switching, and generics were also reasons customers are holding back.
Among consumers who have tried auto-replenishment programs, 3 out of 4 rate their experience using as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’. I recently made my first auto-replenishment purchase and it will definitely be the first of many. And if the millions of visits to Amazon’s Subscribe & Save is an indication, buying everyday household essentials in a store will soon be old news.
Debra Miller Arbesman is senior associate, retailer and consumer products at Compete, a Kantar Media company that helps brands improve their marketing based on the online behavior of millions of consumers.