The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our regular habits, chief among them the weekly grocery shop.
While some of us continued to shop the old-fashioned way during lockdowns as it meant a trip out of the house, many others well and truly embraced the notion of having someone else do the shopping.
As a result, Coles and Woolworths stepped up their online grocery shopping services, offering new delivery options and even premium subscription services.
We tested them out in our online grocery delivery services review to see how they compared.
If you're on the fence about online grocery delivery, or if you're thinking of switching teams to another supermarket, here's everything you need to know about using Coles Online and Woolworths Online for your online grocery delivery.
How we tested
CHOICE is located in Sydney and all of our expert testers work out of labs in our Marrickville office, so we conducted our testing here.
We had groceries delivered both to our office in Marrickville and to our tester's home, using a pseudonym so we didn't get any special treatment. We pick two locations to determine whether discrepancies in the deliveries are isolated incidents or consistent issues with the services or grocer.
Delivery prices, times and conditions may be different in your region, so double-check the details where you live before you commit to a particular online grocery delivery service.
We recognise that not everyone has the option to choose between supermarkets for their online delivery, particularly if you live in a regional or isolated area, however if you're able to switch between supermarkets, this information may help you make a better or more informed choice between the big two supermarkets.
Woolworths came in ahead of Coles in our online grocery delivery review. Here's how they compared:
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 89% (Recommended)
- Order accuracy score*: 93%
- Delivery accuracy score^: 85%
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 76%
- Order accuracy score*: 75%
- Delivery accuracy score^: 75%
* Order accuracy score: Were all products delivered and were any substitutions appropriate and fair?
^ Delivery accuracy score: Did the order arrive within the nominated delivery window?
Working out the delivery costs and time windows for each supermarket can be confusing – making your way through the various charges and options feels a bit like one of those tricky calculus equations from high school!
Here's a brief overview:
- Standard delivery: $7–15
- Minimum spend for delivery: $50
- Express delivery: $15
- Standard delivery: $2–11
- Minimum spend for regular delivery: $50
- Express delivery: $15 for up to 40 items
Both supermarkets offer free delivery for orders of $250 and above. (You also get free delivery for your first order, as long as it's $100 or more.)
Coles keeps things simple with free delivery on all orders over $250 regardless of the day and delivery window.
For Woolworths, orders of $250 or more are eligible for free next-day delivery within three- and five-hour windows.
(These prices and conditions are different if you have a subscription. We'll break that down for you too – keep reading!)
Detailed delivery pricing breakdown
Here are the delivery options and pricing for each supermarket.
Delivery pricing for Woolworths.
Delivery pricing for Coles.
If you're a frequent online grocery shopper and you feel like you're spending a fortune on delivery fees, you might want to consider a supermarket subscription service.
Basically, the deal is that you pay a monthly fee (Woolies also offers a discount for a yearly subscription) and that gives you free same-day or next-day delivery, plus a few other perks such as bonus loyalty card points.
A supermarket subscription service means you can shop as often as you need without blowing your household budget from all the delivery fees
It means that you can continue to shop as often as you need to without worrying about your household budget blowing out from all the delivery fees.
Here's how it works for each supermarket.
Cost: $19 a month.
What is it? Free delivery (including same day delivery) on orders over $50, plus double Flybuys points at Coles supermarkets, 10x Flybuys points on liquor purchases, free access to Click and Collect Rapid for orders over $30 (for a maximum of 40 items; there's also a $5 fee per order), one free Liquorland delivery per month for an order over $50, and priority customer support.
Unfortunately Coles Plus doesn't cover delivery to remote areas.
More info: Coles Plus details.
Woolworths Delivery Unlimited
Cost: $15 a month or $119 a year.
What is it? Free same or next-day delivery on orders over $75, plus double Woolworths Rewards points, priority customer support.
Delivery Unlimited also gives you free standard shipping on Everyday Market orders of $50 or more and double Everyday Rewards points for an Everyday Market order.
You also get a reduced fee ($10) on Delivery Now orders: up to 50 items delivered in under 2 hours. (It usually costs $15 per order.)
Eligible seniors can get a discount on Delivery Unlimited.
Unfortunately you can't get Delivery Unlimited for remote deliveries, or deliveries of bulk orders.
More info: Woolworths Delivery Unlimited.
Are Coles Plus and Woolworths Delivery Unlimited worth it?
In a lot of cases, yes! If you need to shop multiple times a week, you'll more than make back the money that you spend on the subscription.
But if your regular online shop adds up to $250 or more each time, you'll be getting free delivery anyway, so there's no need to spend the extra on the subscription.
For example, most weekly shoppers will save money with a Woolworths Unlimited subscription. The cheapest option (before free delivery) is $5, which is $20 a month and $5 more than the Unlimited fee. Plus, you'll also receive extra Everyday Rewards points with Woolworths, which adds up to money off your shopping.
If your regular online shop adds up to $250 or more each time, you'll be getting free delivery anyway, so there's no need to spend the extra on the subscription
But large orders of $250 or more are sent free of charge, so families or large households that regularly place big orders are unlikely to benefit from Delivery Unlimited.
"It's worth taking the time to crunch the numbers as you could wind up saving money with a subscription," says CHOICE expert Peter Zaluzny.
"You may only have to pay a few dollars per month if you have someone to split the fee with, like a partner or housemates."
During COVID-19 lockdowns, many people embraced online shopping and delivery, and have continued to shop this way as the pandemic has eased.
There are a few peculiarities of Coles' and Woolies' online grocery delivery systems that are worth mentioning:
At both Coles Online and Woolies Online, you have to order most fruits and vegetables by number of items, not weight.
Fruit and vegetables
Both supermarkets have moved to an order-by-item count system for most fruits and vegetables. That means you can only buy a specific number of items, rather than a specific weight – so six potatoes instead of 500g. (Except for pre-packaged produce in a bag that's already been weighed.)
At the time of writing, Woolworths was selling carrots for 35 cents each and Coles was selling them for 42 cents each. But while Woolies only gives a price per unit, Coles also gives an approximate weight per carrot, plus a price per kilogram and a disclaimer that "Final price is based on weight."
Woolworths doesn't give a similar disclaimer, but you're still charged based on the actual weight of the product.
The problem with this system is that you may receive pieces that are smaller or larger than average. When we ordered, the discrepancy was about 200g above and below. There's really no way around this, so if you need a specific amount or weight of produce, it's safer to buy instore.
Third-party deliverers and 'Green Delivery'
Both Coles and Woolies offer alternatives to their traditional delivery models. Coles' 'Partner Delivery' and Woolworths' 'Partner Driver' use third-parties such as Uber and Doordash to deliver your groceries. The idea is that, by selecting a partner delivery, you can access other delivery windows to receive your shopping faster.
Woolworths also offers some 'Green Delivery' windows, which mean you can choose to have your groceries delivered at the same time someone else in your neighbourhood is having their groceries delivered, therefore supposedly reducing the carbon emissions of your delivery.
Woolworths Everyday Market
Woolworths now also has 'Everyday Market', which lets you buy from retailers like Big W and Pet Culture, and brands like Lego, Barbie, Nintendo and Canon. There's a $10 flat rate shipping fee, or delivery is free if you spend $50 or more. (There are extra charges for larger items.)
If you have a Delivery Unlimited subscription, you'll get free shipping on purchases of $50 or more (which is no different to regular shoppers) and double Everyday Rewards points. If your order is $75 or more, you'll get free same- or next-day delivery, and lower fees for Delivery Now.
If you'd prefer to have your grocery delivery packed in paper bags, it'll cost you: $2 per order for Woolworths and $1.50 for Coles. You'll still need to pay the fee even if you have a Woolworths Delivery Unlimited subscription.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.