Five ways grocers are now excelling online

November 30, 2015

Traditionally, grocers tended to be behind the curve when it came to the digital customer experience. However, the latest digital eRetail Benchmark results placed pure play grocer Ocado at the top of the league table for the very first time. Chief Delivery Officer at eDigitalResearch Liz Boffey explores how Ocado climbed to the top and what grocers are finally doing well when it comes to the online shopping experience.

Since the dawn of eRetail back in 1999, the grocery sector has continually been one step behind the rest of the eRetail industry. The grocery sector followed where others lead and years of eRetail Benchmark data revealed time and time again that grocers often failed to live up to the digital experiences on offer elsewhere, failing to deliver against rising expectations.

That is until now.

In the very latest eDigitalResearch digital eRetail Benchmark, pure-play grocer Ocado scooped top spot in the league table thanks to their fantastic digital customer experience. From their homepage all the way through to delivery, users rated key stages of the Ocado online shopper journey as excellent.

The eRetail Benchmark has been measuring the end-to-end digital customer experience – from first impressions and the homepage right through to making a purchase and delivery for over fifteen years now. During that time we’ve witnessed the online experience evolve and change – we know what it takes to deliver a great digital customer experience.

But exactly how are Ocado excelling online? And what other lessons can the online grocery sector learn in order to continue delighting digital shoppers?

1. Predictive search technology

Online shopping is all about convenience – especially on mobile devices. Digital is all about making the quick quicker and ultimately making everyday tasks easier

It’s why the entire end-to-end customer experience must be properly optimised to make online shopping as quick and simple as possible. And why grocers need to integrate the latest search technology into their sites.

Predictive text in keyword search has been around in the eRetail sphere since 2010, yet several big grocers still don’t offer the functionality on their site.

Ocado’s predictive keyword search text is accurate and well implemented – it means that users can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for and access product ranges instantaneously. In fact, Ocado’s keyword search function is a main feature of their homepage, allowing shoppers to access their huge product range at just the click of a button.

2. An open shopping basket

Grocers face a unique challenge when it comes to the online shopping journey – the extended browsing period as shoppers navigate and search the huge range of items on offer is likely to lead to users accessing the basket several times.

Ocado’s mobile site excels in this area – with just one click, shoppers can scroll through their basket and clearly see all items in there, as well as amend quantities if needed.

However, our research reveals that some big name grocers are forcing shoppers to log-in or register just to add items to their basket. It represents a massive barrier for shoppers and add considerable effort to completing a purchase – in other words, it makes things difficult for the customer, not easy

3. Short, sweet and integrated registration process

As we’ve seen, forced and lengthy registration forms before shoppers can complete a purchase – or worse yet, even access their shopping basket – are one of the biggest grievances of online shoppers.

While the lure of precious customer’s details may seem irresistible to some retailers, the frustration it causes for shoppers can be one of the biggest drivers behind basket abandonment rates. Instead, retailers need to keep their registration forms short and sweet – or better yet, offer customers the opportunity to register after they’ve completed their purchase by simply creating a password, much like leading multichannel retailer John Lewis do.

While Ocado still ask their shoppers to register before they proceed to the checkout, their registration form is short and to the point, asking just the information needed to create an account. Ocado even offer new registrants the opportunity to use their registration details from accounts elsewhere – including Facebook and PayPal – making their registration process one of the simplest on the web

4. Product reviews

Product reviews are no longer seen as just a nice to have. They are a key online feature that shoppers now expect – in fact, separate eDigitalResearch results into shopping behaviour revealed that in-store shoppers are increasingly using mobile devices to check ratings and reviews. It appears that product reviews and ratings greatly enhances both the online and offline customer experience.

Top performing grocers, like Ocado, provide detailed customer reviews for their extensive product range – including everyday household items, such as milk.

Basic information, such as star ratings, are available as early on in the journey as the search results pages, with more information presented on individual product pages.

The biggest challenge now, however, for those retailers that currently lack this functionality is building an extensive yet verified set of customer reviews across their site quickly – it’s just one of the reasons customer feedback is a vital part of any digital strategy.

5. Service with a smile

Commercially-lead customer experience professionals will tell you that no one can possibly optimise each and every single part of their customer journey to delight shoppers – it’s just not possible. Instead, it’s important to pick key moments to really focus efforts and excel – such as Amazon’s one click purchase – in order to stand out from the competition.

When it comes to delivery, grocers have a unique advantage over their rest of the eRetail industry. By employing their own drivers to deliver goods, grocers have the ability to influence the final, key stage of the digital purchase journey and leave shoppers feeling delighted with their overall experience.

It involves knowing what good looks like, training drivers to understand how to deliver that and providing the technology and tools to proactively rescue the situation when things do occasionally go wrong – giving drivers the contact details of shoppers to alert them if they’re running late is just one of the ways Ocado manage increasingly high delivery expectations.

The proof is in the pudding

Ocado might be doing digital well but what does that mean?

By offering a leading digital customer experience, Ocado are likely to encourage shoppers to return. After all, getting shoppers to come back and buy again is a lot easier (and cheaper) than continually trying to find new ones.

“I really liked the design of this site. It was easy to navigate and the product pages were very informative. I will certainly be happy to use this website to place a shopping order in the future based upon this experience”.

Read eDigitalResearch’s digital eRetail Benchmark report into the UK’s grocery sector and see how to make your online experience stand out from the competition.