Revealed: Does Coles or Woolworths do online shopping better?

There’s no doubt that Australians have changed the way they do their weekly grocery shop.

With demand for online supermarket shopping skyrocketing over the past 18 months, retailers like Coles and Woolworths have seen a huge jump in online sales.

But who does online shopping better? A survey conducted by consumer group CHOICE has now revealed which retail giant shoppers prefer when buying groceries online and the results may surprise you.

Coles supermarket at Brandon Park shopping centre in Glen Waverley. Source: Getty Images
CHOICE has released data about which supermarket giant shoppers prefer. Source: Getty Images

Demand is through the roof

Up until recently, an average month saw four per cent of shoppers buy their groceries online according to market research company Roy Morgan.

But Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at Queensland University of Technology, Gary Mortimer, says Covid-19 has accelerated this growth to levels that weren’t expected so soon.

“Food and grocery online shopping really only accounted for about 1.5 per cent of total sales in relation to physical store sales,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“So in other words, 98.5 cents of every dollar was spent in a supermarket, but only about 1.5 cents was spent online.

“That’s now increased to close to six per cent over the last 18 months.”

Woolworths logo is seen displayed on a smartphone and a pc screen. Source: Getty Images
Woolworths reported annual eCommerce sales growth of 90.5 percent in the quarter ended 4 April 2021. Source: Getty Images

Who does online shopping better?

The May 2021 survey by Australian consumer group CHOICE found that 32 per cent of those surveyed shopped online, with most shopping with either Coles or Woolworths.

The survey rated the two supermarkets across 20 different criteria and the results were extremely close.

Woolworths ultimately beat out Coles for overall customer satisfaction online with Woolies scoring 74 per cent compared to Coles at 71 per cent.

Tellingly, Woolworths shoppers were more likely to recommend friends shop online with Woolies compared to Coles shoppers.

Despite the extremely close results, the reasons why shoppers picked Woolworths over Coles were, in some instances, surprising.

What are customers looking for online?

The survey covered 20 different criteria for customers to rate their experiences with Woolworths and Coles.

Woolworths had an extended lead on Coles in two main criteria, including the level of detail about products and the helpfulness of online customer service.

Some of the other criteria included the range of products online, ease of shopping online and online checkout and ease of searching products.

Ultimately though, customers preferred Woolworths across all criteria particularly because they offered more information to online customers across products and pricing.

Who scores higher on packaging for delivery?

There is no doubt supermarkets are under pressure when to comes to deliveries too.

With demand so high, both Coles and Woolworths customers have complained about their online delivery experience.

One customer, a Sydney nurse in self-isolation, said Coles cancelled her order three hours before it was due for delivery.

Meanwhile, a Woolworths customer who is also an essential worker claims their order arrived 41 hours late and no one contacted them about the delay.

Other customers have complained about receiving too many bags with one item per bag or receiving goods that are close to or past the used by date.

Coles delivery driver carrying bags into house for woman with baby. Source: Getty Images
Online customers have made complaints about both Coles and Woolworths delivery service due to increasing demand. Source: Getty Images

The CHOICE survey found that shoppers scored Woolworths higher when asked about satisfaction in the number of bags used for packaging and delivery with 63 per cent preferring Woolworths compared to Coles’ 56 per cent.

Change is coming to supermarkets

Although supermarkets chains weren’t expecting this type of online demand until much later on their infrastructure road map, they are making adjustments.

“Supermarkets are investing considerable amounts of money into upgrading their online infrastructure including the rolling out of automated pick centres eStore fulfillment centres as well as dark stores,” Mr Mortimer said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructures coming, but that’s the thing, it’s coming. At times when we have these big lifts in demand because of lockdown, it can be hard to meet that demand."

Female staff member working at a Woolworths eStore. Source: Woolworths
Woolworths has created a number of new jobs thanks to their eStores, including a Stock & Systems Manager, who is responsible for the technology and inventory. Source: Woolworths

That being said, Woolworths has recently launched its fourth eStore in Maroochydore, Queensland.

The new micro-fulfillment technology facility uses robotic systems to sort and move products from automated storage units directly to team members who are handpicking customer orders.

Additionally, Coles is in the process of constructing two state-of-the-art automated customer fulfillment centres (CFCs), in metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney.

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