What kinds of features are web users looking for from grocery shopping sites? 

We've looked at the big UK supermarket websites to see how they cater for the needs of customers. 

This is based on insights from a recent survey by retail marketing firm Savvy, which questioned more than 1,000 shoppers about their online grocery preferences. 

On a side note before I start: Ocado has entered into an agreement to run Morrisons.com, so a lot of functionality is duplicated between the two (hence I won’t always provide examples of both). 

Convenience is the main reason for shopping online

74% of respondents said convenience was the reason they shopped online, vs. only 19% for budgeting, the next most popular choice. 

This means convenience should inform the majority of decisions when designing the user experience for an online supermarket, as this is what is going to ensure people continue to use the site over its competitors.

As for measuring convenience, I thought I’d focus on the following three factors based on my own experience as a consumer:

  • Ease of registration.
  • Search functionality.
  • Choice of delivery times.

Let’s take a look at each of those in more detail.

Ease of registration

Morrisons/Ocado have to be the winners in this category. I love how clean and simple the registration page is. 

Both Ocado and Morrisons also let you register via Facebook (Ocado lets you register with Paypal, too). Given that 73% of online grocery shoppers use Facebook according to the survey, this seems like a clever move.

There is a trade off here of course. Allowing users to register via third party apps and sites means you don't have all of their details, but the easier registration process should translate into more sales. One to ponder. 

Ocado registration page

Compare this to the Waitrose registration page, which is fairly cluttered and isn’t integrated with any other sites to allow you to speed up the process.

Waitrose registration page

Predictive search function

One of the key findings from the survey was the rise of search. In particular, the inclusion of a predictive search function makes for a more convenient user experience. 

As of today, only Sainsbury’s and Ocado/Morrisons have a predictive search function on their sites. There is, however, a clear difference in the number of suggested products on a word.

Sainsbury’s offers just a handful of product suggestions for each word you enter (and the results appeared halfway down the page for some reason).

Sainsbury's predictive search

Whereas on the Ocado/Morrisons sites you get a much larger range of suggested products for each word, giving the consumer much more choice for selecting specific products directly from the search bar. Much more convenient. 

Ocado predictive search

I tested several search words so this is definitely not an anomaly, meaning Ocado/Morrisons have to be clear winners on this category (for now). 

Choice of delivery times

Waitrose and Ocado come out top here. They cover lots of areas and they offer deliveries from 6am right up to 11pm, providing busy people with the flexibility they want.

Waitrose delivery slots

Morrisons scores highly too, offering a nice range of delivery slots for people. The problem is they don’t deliver to a huge number of areas yet so they’ll need to branch out if they want to compete in the long run.

Morrisons delivery areas

Tesco and Sainsbury’s offer a good range of delivery slots too, but they don’t offer anything earlier than 8am.

This seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to cater for people who want to receive a delivery before work. 

Tesco delivery slots

Asda’s deliveries only start at 9am, which means they are going to miss out on even more of that pre-work market.

Asda delivery slots

Written lists

59% of respondents prepare a physical written list before doing their shopping online. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for supermarket sites to include this function in a digital format. Let’s take a look.

Waitrose seems to have this nailed, having created a nice-looking list function right in the centre of its groceries homepage. They’ve even made it look like a real-life list to appeal to those who prefer good-old-fashioned pen and paper.

My only gripe is that they’ve chosen to call it ‘jotter multi-search’ rather than something familiar like ‘your shopping list,’ although the imagery makes its function pretty obvious. 

Waitrose shopping list function

Tesco has also included the list feature on its homepage, although it’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing or convenient (you have to click on the  ‘search with a list of items’ text below the search bar before you can see it).

Tesco shopping list function

Sainsbury’s again has included a list on its site under the search page, but you have to click the text below the search bar to reveal the function. 

Sainsbury's shopping list function

Ocado does things slightly differently. Firstly, you can only access it via the 'My Ocado' tab so it's not immediately visible.

Also, you can only add things to it by going to each individual product, which seems pretty inconvenient to me.

Ocado shopping list function

Asda seems to be the same deal as Ocado/Morrisons. You can create a list as you go along via the individual products, but you can’t just write one and go from there. 

I can see how this method would help people find products they’ve bought before, but unless somebody has an identical shopping list every week I think these supermarkets are missing a trick. 

Asda shopping list function

Mobile experience

25% of respondents prefer to shop on their mobile or tablet. If the rest of ecommerce is anything to go by we can only expect this figure to grow.

In terms of the actual product selection pages, all the sites came out pretty similar, so I’ve focussed more on specific areas where I think the mobile sites are particularly strong or weak.

Sainsbury's

One of the key findings from the survey was that people found predictive search particularly useful on a mobile site, where it can be more of a task to browse through product categories. 

Sadly Sainsbury’s hasn’t included this functionality on its mobile site, despite having it on the main website, which seems like a somewhat strange decision.  

I do, however, quite like the simplicity of the groceries homepage with the ‘Browse Shop’ and ‘Great Offers’ buttons displayed nice and clearly.

Sainsbury's mobile site

The Asda mobile site goes straight in with suggested products. The problem is these appear to be random, and below that there are product suggestions based on general popularity. 

Asda mobile site

59% of survey respondents said they would like to see properly targeted product suggestions. If Asda could make these suggestions targeted I think this would make a brilliant opening page for the mobile site.

Until then, however, it’s just annoying having to scroll through a load of irrelevant products before being able to access the rest of the shop. 

Ocado/Morrisons

There’s that lovely predictive search function again, instantly putting Ocado/Morrisons above the competition in terms of convenience (the main thing we’re measuring here).

Ocado mobile site

Waitrose

The best part about the Waitrose mobile site is the filtering options. There is a huge range of choices, making it easy for customers to narrow down what they’re looking for. 

Waitrose mobile site

Tesco

Tesco has directed customers not only to current offers, but also to relevant items based on what they usually buy. A nice touch, but, like others, they could do with better search and filtering features.

Tesco mobile site

Conclusion: lots of catching up to do

According to the survey, 39% of grocery consumers are going online for their shop at least once every three months, and we can only expect this to rise further in line with the growth of mobile. 

Supermarkets will therefore need to focus on creating a positive online shopping experience in the coming years if they want to remain competitive. 

Ocado and Morrisons deserve particular mention because they are clearly miles ahead in terms of mobile and search and general site functionality. Plus they offer a good range of delivery slots. But their sites are not perfect by any means. 

As supermarkets begin to understand what their customers want online, we should hopefully see some exciting developments in future as they all try to claim their share of the growing online grocieries market.

Jack Simpson

Published 18 June, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

If I searched for "oranges", I would want the site to suggest e.g:
spanish oranges, tangerines, mandarins, and possibly orange juice and marmalade.

Not: orange club, orange drink, orange jam, orange jelly. orange juic (sic)...
What kind of GMO horror is "orange jam" anyway????

over 2 years ago

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aarohi gupta, ezeelo at 1996

Online grocery shopping is really good.I always shop grocery online because it save my time and money.I always shop from eZeelo.com and it is good.

about 1 month ago

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