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 New South Wales, South East Queensland, the ACT and Melbourne).
We place orders with all four retailers (under a pseudonym to make sure we don't get any special treatment) and assess how easy it is to place and complete the order, and how prompt the delivery is. We then meticulously examine every item on each order to check for accuracy and quality. We make sure our shopping list is 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.
We place two orders with each supermarket and have one delivered to our tester's home and the other to the CHOICE office. We place two orders to determine whether discrepancies in the deliveries are isolated incidents or consistent issues with the services provided by different location.
The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of performance (80%) and ease of use (20%).
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 penalise retailers for insufficient substitutions (like corn chips instead of potato chips), out-of-stock items and forgotten products. We also check the quality and quantity of all fresh produce to make sure it's 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 elements that make up the collective ease of use score. They're assessed on a desktop computer using a web browser.
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 the 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?
Ease of use – mobile: This score is a combination of account set-up, item selection, order administration and returns for iOS and Android devices, using apps where available. If an app isn't available, we run the test on the mobile optimised web browser version. This doesn't contribute to the total ease of use score or the CHOICE Expert Rating.
We also gather 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.
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.
We use calibrated instruments to measure the temperature of chilled goods on arrival and the exact weight of the produce we receive. Our method was developed with help from research into consumer complaints and common issues with online grocery delivery and consultation with in-house experts including our food and nutrition specialists and user experience (UX) designers.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.