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How Coles is countering the challenges of online grocery retail

Supermarkets provide a unique set of challenges for online shopping, which retailers are tackling step by step in an effort to improve customer experience for online grocery shoppers.

Speaking at the Online Retail Supply Chain Summit in Melbourne last week, Brad Foenander, head of e-commerce for Coles, shared two of the supermarket giant’s strategies to ease online pain points.

“Coles online isn’t perfect, we are still going on the journey. We’ve got a lot to learn still,” Foenander said.

“There is only about two per cent of total grocery sales that are done online, so it is a very low proportion of total sales, probably extremely low by any other e-commerce retailer’s standards.”

The time it takes for an online shopper to fill their grocery basket is a major hurdle facing online operations, Foenander explained. A first-time shopper can spend one minute choosing or searching for each product, so 50 products soon becomes 50 minutes worth of online grocery shopping, before reaching the checkout.

“That’s a very long shopping journey and to keep the customer’s interest for that time is a real challenge,” Foenander said.

To address this challenge, Coles has integrated customer’s instore shopping data with their online profile. Using their Flybuys card, recent purchase history can be imported, which can cut the process down to 20 minutes.   

“The advantage here is that it takes the search and review process and turns it into something which is just really adding and updating from their regular products,” Foenander said.

The other advantage is to make recommendations based on what they normally purchase.

Another challenge is around the product imagery. Instore shoppers can pick up a product, read the info and compare sizes without clicking through different pages. On a smartphone screen it is difficult to distinguish between 500g and 750g of cereal, or different cuts of steak.

Coles experimented with adding size context to images, as pictured below. The simpler image on the right had a higher conversion rate than the traditional image on the left.

Coles online

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