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How we test online grocery delivery services

This is how we got our results when we tested the online grocery delivery services offered by Woolworths, Coles and Harris Farm Markets.

woman shopping online for groceries

Online grocery delivery services promise to take the grunt work out of grocery shopping with just a few simple clicks. But is it as easy as it seems and can you rely on the quality and accuracy of your online order? We put the three major online grocery retailers to the test – Coles, Woolworths and NSW retailer Harris Farm Markets (which delivers in Sydney and Canberra).

How we test

We placed orders with all three retailers (under a pseudonym to ensure we didn't get any special treatment) and assessed how easy it was to place and complete the order and how prompt our delivery was before meticulously examining every item on each order to check for accuracy and quality. We made our shopping list as close to identical as possible for all three retailers and repeated each order twice to allow us to make fair comparisons.

The overall score is made up of:

Performance (80%)

  • Order accuracy (80% of performance score): Were all the products delivered and were substitutions appropriate and fair? We penalised retailers for insufficient substitutions (like corn chips instead of potato chips), out-of-stock items and forgotten products. We also checked the quality and quantity of all fresh produce to ensure it was of an acceptable standard.  
  • Delivery accuracy (20% of performance score): Did the delivery arrive within the specified delivery window?

We ordered a range of fresh produce, meat and cold products as well as non-perishable and pantry items

Ease of use (20%)

  • Account set-up (10% of ease of use score): How easy is it to set up an account and get started?
  • Selecting items (50% of ease of use score): How good is the search function and how easy is it to add all the items on our list to our cart? We look at things like how clever the predictive search bar is, how easy it is to select the quantities you want and how accurate and detailed the product information is.
  • Order administration (20% of ease of use score): How easy is it to make changes to our cart and complete payment? 
  • Returns (20% of ease of use score): How generous is the returns and refunds policy?

We also gathered data on:

  • Product range
  • Loyalty rewards programs
  • Standard delivery costs
  • Delivery windows
  • Minimum order value for delivery
  • Options for free delivery
  • Cost of express delivery
  • Payment options

How we choose what we test

As the online grocery delivery market in Australia is very small, we tested all three retailers who deliver both pantry goods and fresh produce. There are a number of other retailers that sell pantry goods only, often in bulk quantities, but we didn't include them in this review as it wouldn't be fair to compare them with retailers who include refrigerated, fresh produce in their deliveries.

Our test lab and experts

We used calibrated instruments to measure the temperature of chilled goods on arrival and the exact weight of the produce we received.

Our new methodology was developed with help from the following:

  • Research into consumer gripes and common issues with online grocery delivery
  • Consultation with in-house experts including our food and nutrition specialists, user experience designers and tech whizzes.
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE