Where usability surveys meet marketing
  • Food and Grocery

    Qualified metrics to better assess the optimisation potential

    With fast growing demanding customers, e-commerce players are facing the challenge of capturing and, more importantly, keeping new clients as well as contributing to the brand image and customer satisfaction.

    In this context, every detail matters and the customer is at the core of the process to optimise the experience online. For sites carrying such significant brand awareness and its related image, is the experience delivered online up to speed with customers’ expectations?
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Food and Grocery shopping online is one of the most significant e-commerce activities in the UK, all players closely watched by competitors all over Europe. With a strong emphasis on simplifying Food shopping via the digital experience, this field of business is the playground of major retailers as well as more recent pure players. With customer loyalty at stake, each player aims to position itself to “grab” a share of this market which is likely to still enjoy a strong growth in the future.

This first edition of 2012 focuses on the online “Food and Grocery” shopping and is a definite milestone in terms of online customer experience surveys and competitive benchmarking, supported by its statistical relevance. For this purpose, more than 1.000 e-shoppers have actually tested the sites of the major players in this industry : Asda, Natoora, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco Groceries, Waitrose.

Retailers are currently operating in a very challenging period, where technology is influencing and adapting consumer behaviour at a remarkable pace. The opportunities presented by these changes are numerous, but can also seem overwhelming and difficult to prioritise.

What surveys such as this reveal is that although mobile devices are becoming ever-more powerful and multifunctional, when assessing something in terms of usability, there are some elements of shopping that should remain simple and straightforward, both in the online and offline environment. Sometimes basic is better at providing the kind of experience that a user wants.

No matter what a site might be capable of, it can never hope to achieve being all things to all customers, so a real focus on carrying out a rudimentary task, which is what grocery shopping essentially is, no matter how advanced the device is, would appear to be fundamental when judging the success of a site.
Online grocery sales have grown fast in the UK in recent years, driving innovation across the ecommerce sector. With competition fierce between supermarkets, online ordering has become a must-have and only one of the big five major retailers in this area has yet to offer such a service. While Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda all offer ecommerce services, Morrisons’ is still in the planning stages.

An important addition to this list is online-only grocer Ocado. In years gone by it was effectively the Waitrose online delivery service. Now that Waitrose, part of the John Lewis group, is offering its ecommerce service, Ocado is branching out, concentrating on high levels of customer service and promoting both its own and rival brands.

Such services are growing fast. Christmas 2011 trading statements from Tesco, Ocado and Sainsbury’s showed online growth of 14%, 16% and 20% respectively. But the proportion of UK consumers who buy their groceries online is still low. According to figures from food and grocery analysts IGD published in November 2011, only around 3.8% of UK grocery purchases are made online, worth £5.9bn.

IGD forecast that the figure will more than double to £11.2bn by 2016, or 6% of the market. it also detected little loyalty: 64% of those who bought groceries online said they used two or more online supermarkets, while 47% saying they would like to try another.

Set into real navigation conditions, a statistically reliable sample of no less than 150 Internet buyers for each site completed the 6 tasks and during the whole course of their navigation (after each task and at the end of their navigation) delivered their views on several key dimensions (perception, satisfaction and image).

As a matter of fact, each site has been tested only by non clients in order to focus on the “first navigation” impact. Each user navigates on a website randomly allocated based on the answers provided during the screening questionnaire phase. For the purpose of the survey, Yuseo worked with Research Now in order to recruit the participants.
For the purpose of the survey, each participant (specifically screened) completed 6 tasks on each site and answered more than 70 questions before, during and after the navigation. To assess the online customer experience, the tasks given to the participants did cover the 3 main issues at stake :

 Finding products online : 2 tasks to fill in a shopping list enabling participants to browse the different sections of products, directly assessing the online merchandising : fresh products, cooked meals, drinks,…

Online process : 2 tasks to initiate the order of products including the “click and collect” option as the handling of the shopping list.

 Customer support and information : 2 tasks to find information related to the damaged product policy and the quality process for delivering fresh and frozen goods.

To assess the e-Performance, the 2 metricsnavigation experience and user satisfaction – are the core data proposed by YUSEO’s Observatory. It allows positioning each site tested amongst the different competitors in accordance to its own results on these 2 axes (each axe represents the average measured within this set of players).

In an increasingly competitive market, each website constantly tailors and focuses on the range and
quality of products and services proposed to attract and retain the user.

In this context, the design choices have to deliver and induce such quality of experience to the online customers. It is all the more crucial to make sure such efforts are optimised to efficiently achieve the objectives.

As shown on the mapping, 3 groups of sites clearly appear with a bulk of players very much at the center (within the average), Tesco doing quite well on the top right corner and Waitrose slightly disappointing on the other hand.

Because the survey relies on assessing the online user’s experience based on the 3 key pillars – Access to the products, Online process and Customer information and support – amongst the different sites there are some real differences within each different component.

The overall results are mostly the consequence of some inconsistency in the overall experience delivered online. Between poor guidance, a non logical site’s organisation or even an insufficient level of information to reassure the customer, the results confirm that when it comes to online experience every detail matters.