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How we test online grocery delivery services

This is how assess the grocery delivery services offered by Woolworths, Coles, IGA 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 four major online grocery retailers to the test – Coles, Woolworths, IGA and Harris Farm Markets (which delivers in Sydney and Canberra).

How we test online grocery delivery services

We placed orders with all four retailers (under a pseudonym to make sure 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 four retailers, covering a range of fresh produce, meat and cold items as well as non-perishable and pantry items.

One order was placed with Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farms as they had been tested a number of times previously, while two orders were placed with IGA as it's a new addition to our test. If a discrepancy was identified in any delivery, then an additional order was placed to confirm if it was an isolated or consistent issue with the service.

In 2021, groceries were delivered to our tester's home rather than the CHOICE labs due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The calibrated tools used to measure weight and temperature in previous tests were sent to their home to ensure the highest degree of accuracy.

CHOICE Expert rating

The CHOICE Expert rating is made up of performance (80%) and ease of use (20%).

Performance

There are two tests that make up the collective performance score.

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 make sure it was of an acceptable standard.  

Delivery accuracy (20% of performance score): Did the delivery arrive within the specified delivery window?

Ease of use

There are three tests that make up the collective ease of use score.

Item selection (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?

Account setup (10% of ease of use score): How easy is it to set up an account and get started?

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
  • whether deliveries can be left outside
  • whether deliveries need to be collected in person.

How we choose what we test

As the online grocery delivery market in Australia is very small, we tested all four 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 method was developed with help from research into consumer gripes and common issues with online grocery delivery and consultation with in-house experts including our food and nutrition specialists and user experience (UX) designers.

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.