Grocery shopping online

A CHOICE survey confirms Australians have largely rejected online grocery shopping. We look at the pros and cons.
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01 .Introduction


With the convenience offered by online grocery shopping, it should be a winner. Yet only five per cent of Australians say they purchase groceries online. In a recent CHOICE survey of nearly 3800 members, we found the overwhelming majority had never shopped online. About 400 said they currently do. Another 500 had shopped online in the past but no longer do so. 

The national online grocery market, not surprisingly, is dominated by Coles and Woolworths. The concept launched last decade with and Shopfast, since bought out by Woolworths and Coles respectively - they offer the only full online grocery service. Smaller operations such as and Aussie Farmers Direct  have sprung up, selling nationally on a limited range of goods.

Our survey found:

  • Woolworths' website is the easiest to navigate and has the most convenient delivery times.
  • For overall satisfaction, Coles rated significantly higher than Woolworths.
  • Smaller, local operations (grouped as ‘Other’) rated significantly higher than both Coles and Woolworths. They may not be providing a full grocery service, but they are outperforming the big two. Our respondents use these smaller local online suppliers for part of their grocery shop such as fruit and vegetables, milk and bread and specialty items.

Why aren’t consumers shopping online?

Almost half surveyed said they like to see the products they purchase and so prefer to shop in-store. Other key reasons: “too costly”, “not home during delivery times” and “live in a remote area”. Those who’ve discontinued grocery shopping online cited the limited range of products available, and products being too costly.


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Grocery shopping

As an experiment to compare delivery times and overall service, on the same day I shopped at Woolworths’ and Coles’ online grocery sites before heading to both supermarkets (in the same suburb) to do the same shop in-store. I used the CHOICE grocery basket to compare prices.

Coles Online: using CHOICE’s shopping list made it easy to locate items quickly, though if you don’t have a list with product brands and sizes it could be quite time-consuming searching pages of products. Despite this, Coles’ site still led me astray – Sakata rice crackers were not found under savoury biscuits and crackers. A universal search found them in the chips, snacks and nuts section instead, even though they’re definitely biscuits. The Coles shop took 45 minutes and I chose a delivery timeslot of between 7.30am-10.30am the next morning.

Woolworths Online: a few items were difficult to find, and I again resorted to universal search. I chose a similar four-hour delivery slot to Coles, and again the total time taken for the online shop was 45 minutes.

In store shopping: I then set off to Woolworths to buy the CHOICE basket. It took ages to find the cheese – online it had been easy to use the search function, but in-store the dairy section had recently been re-arranged. Door-to-store and back took 50 minutes.

In Coles, I also found the CHOICE basket of goods quickly. However, I was tempted by extra items on special. See our article on how to avoid supermarket sales tactics. Door-to-store and home took 45 minutes. In my experience, Woolworths was on time and all purchases accounted for, though I wasn’t impressed with the amount of plastic bags used. By 11am, Coles had not arrived and I had to go out. Coles left two phone messages, one from the Coles online call centre and a second from the driver, saying he would have to return to the depot. I called back at midday to find my order cancelled and was told I should have phoned when my groceries didn’t arrive on time.

The CHOICE verdict

Despite the extra cost (see table), online grocery shopping is very convenient – provided all goes well. However, in the three and a half hours I spent waiting for Coles online to deliver I could have visited my local stores three times.



When combined as ‘Other’ in our survey, smaller fruit and vegetable suppliers, as well as fresh milk and bread deliveries, rated far better than the big two supermarkets. The smaller players, with a satisfaction rating of 82%, compared with Coles at 71% and Woolworths at just 64%. Most of the smaller players are based locally, however two companies are growing in influence.

Online supplier Only Oz  offers Australian-produced groceries and other products nationwide, while Aussie Farmers Direct (AFD) is a franchise delivering dairy, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and other specialty goods to most metropolitan and regional cities. 

The AFD range includes large-scale producers such as Norco; it also provides some local producers an opportunity to sell into suburban markets they wouldn’t have access to normally. Other providers recommended as a local alternative by our survey respondents include:





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