How online grocery sites can improve their user experience

By UserTesting | June 15, 2018
Vegetable section in a grocery store

While the value of the UK’s online grocery market continues to grow (worth £12.3bn in 2018, up 9% from 2017), it seems to be having some trouble attracting new customers.

According to Mintel, the percentage of shoppers buying their groceries online has fallen from 48% in 2015 to 45% in 2018.

Common objections to online grocery shopping include delivery costs, minimum spends, while others prefer to get touchy-feely with their fruit and veg.

While UX cannot solve all of these problems, it can make the experience of buying groceries online as easy as possible for users. In this article, I’ll look at some excellent examples of UX from online grocery retailers.


Registration can be a cause of friction for online shoppers, and best practice for online retail in general is to avoid forcing users to register upfront.

However, since users have to book delivery slots anyway, added to the fact that online grocery shops can take time, registration makes more sense for this market.

The key is to make it nice and easy so that shoppers can register quickly and get on with the job of shopping.

A well designed form helps, as well as keeping the registration form as short as possible.

Ocado is a good example, with a short registration form, as well as providing alternative shortcuts with the option of registering through Facebook or PayPal.

Easy booking of delivery slots

Booking delivery should be easy, and Sainsbury’s is a good example of this.

It shows the available time slots clearly, along with the costs, so customers can see availability and make the decision based on cost and convenience.

It’s also important to be clear on details such as how long a booking slot is saved for, to avoid any surprises for customers who take a bit longer to select their shop.

An online grocery shop can mean customers are adding lots of items to their baskets, and this could be a very time consuming process.

When customers are shopping for multiple items, it’s important to make search as easy as possible.

List search options, like the one used by Ocado, enable shoppers to search for multiple items at once, before going through the results for each product.

This saves time making multiple searches, and allows shoppers to paste shopping lists in quickly.

Any shortcut which speeds up product selection can help. Asda allows customers to upload their in-store items by entering the barcode from a till receipt. This will then populate their ‘favorites’ list to shorten the next shop.

Saved shopping lists

Saving lists from previous shops can spare a lot of effort, and should be one of the main benefits of registration. Then customers can use the last shop as a starting point, saving lots of time.

Another great shortcut, and one which can be a very useful acquisition tool, is to allow customers to import their saved favorites list from other online grocery sites.

Mobile shortcuts

For customers doing their grocery shops on mobile, it pays to use the features of their devices to make their shop easier. For example, Tesco’s online shopping app allows shoppers to scan items from their cupboard, or even local stores to populate their online shopping lists.

Useful cross-selling recommendations

Cross-selling is a useful tactic for any online retailer looking to encourage shoppers to add more to their baskets and increase average order values.

In online grocery, it becomes a useful way to help customers shop as well. Product recommendations can save customers time by suggesting products which complement these they’re already buying.

For example, when viewing beef burgers on Ocado, shoppers see recommendations for buns, bacon, and blue cheese slices to complete the meal.

Add to cart shortcuts

Quick add to cart buttons help people to complete their shop more quickly, as there’s often no need to view product pages for more details.

Visible shopping basket summary

A summary of basket contents and the total price helps people to quickly check how much they’re about to spend, or whether they’ve missed anything.

Here, Asda shows a persistent summary at the side of the page. Charges are clear, and it’s also useful to highlight any offers that customers might not be taking advantage of.

In summary

Thanks to the sheer number of products, buying groceries online can be one of the more complex and time-consuming online purchases.

This is why good user experience is so important. Online grocery sites have large product ranges across many section, and the shopper will need to add perhaps 30 or more items to their basket.

In this context, site search and navigation make a big difference, as fast and effective results can make users’ tasks easier and more intuitive.

It’s also an area where any shortcuts, such as saved shopping lists and quick add-to-basket links, are important to improve the experience. The features shown here can all help to improve the user experience, by shortening the shopping process, and ensuring that shoppers can buy groceries with the minimum of hassle.

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