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Woman shopping online at Coles and Woolworths

How Coles and Woolworths are reshaping self-service grocery shopping (again)

Is it time for a grocery run? Supermarkets have been bustling with people buying essentials. The biggest ones like Coles and Woolworths now allow us to shop for groceries online, with more of us now prefering to shop in the comfort and safety of our own homes.

Are you one of us? Or are you only starting to consider the online shopping option? It’s time to explore the virtual side of grocery shopping. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of online grocery shopping in this two-part series of pros and cons.

History of Supermarkets in Australia

Supermarkets have been around since 1916 when a grocer in Memphis, Tennessee set up the first self-service grocery store. Before this, people had to visit various small specialty shops for their goods—one for fresh produce, the other for dairy, another for meat, and so on. For dry goods, you would queue at a store and wait for a grocer to fetch your items for you. And if the item wasn’t exactly what you were looking for, the grocer had to go back to the shop and look for another one. And we think the pandemic has proved how inconvenient queues are! The self-service grocery store was truly revolutionary for its time.

In Australia, Farr’s of Newcastle was the first Australian store to advertise itself as a supermarket in 1938. It was only in 1957 that Woolworths’ origin came about in Brisbane, while it took Coles three years after this to open in North Balwyn. Today, these two big names are now the top supermarkets in Australia.

The Future of Supermarkets

Shopping in-store at Coles and Woolworths

It’s been more than 80 years since supermarkets came to Australia. Since then, we’ve seen ever-changing food trends, the rise and fall of big and small grocery stores, and the use of paper bags to plastic bags and back to paper bags again.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the supermarket industry. And with advancements in technology, it has never been more convenient to get our groceries. Major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths now offers online shopping and delivery and are working continuously to improve their services, with a particular focus on digital solutions.

Coles Cloud Inventory

In the future, Coles will use an AI-cloud platform to centralise its stock of fresh produce. This will help keep fruits and vegetables fresh since things like seasonality, shelf life, and transportation concerns will be automated. With a centralised system, they can guarantee that the greens we’ll get are crisp and firm.

Woolworths Online Marketplace

Woolies also has plans to expand digitally. They are working on scaling up their online platform to become an online marketplace. This means that, much like Amazon, their virtual grocery store will broaden to include other suppliers apart from the Woolworths Group. They will start by including Big W in their online store and add different suppliers and merchants from there. This will create an online marketplace where we can buy various products at competitive prices.

Australians’ Perception of Online Grocery Shopping

With the rise of digital platforms, the demand for online grocery shopping has increased. In the latest CHOICE supermarket satisfaction survey, Woolworths and Coles have received good reviews for customer e-commerce experience. 74 percent of respondents said that they are satisfied with online shopping at Woolies, while 71 percent said they were satisfied at Coles. They will also recommend online shopping at Woolworths (88%) and Coles (82%) to their friends and family, showing how we are becoming more and more accepting of online grocery shopping.

Its growing popularity can be attributed to its ease of use and convenience. What’s not to like? Let’s explore the virtual world of grocery shopping with some of its benefits.

The Pros of Online Shopping for Groceries

No tricking your senses

When you’re at home, you’re safe from supermarket tactics that are designed to make you spend more. Yes, there’s a science to supermarket layouts and experiences. Why else would the flowers and fresh bread be at the entrance to the store? They’re strategically position to put you in a good mood with the intention of getting you to do some unintended spending. This is just one of their schemes. If you want to learn more, we have a whole piece about it here.

No frills shopping

Say goodbye to crowds and queues. You can have your groceries delivered to your doorstep and you can even select a delivery window for you to receive it, saving you money on petrol and time.

No need to worry about which supermarkets are still open by the time you finish your busy day. If you plan your order ahead of time, select a brief delivery window for the end of the day and have your shopping waiting on the doorstep when you arrive home.

If you'd prefer to pick up your groceries on the way home, the click and collect feature allows you to shop ahead of time and collect your items at your convenience. All you have to do is turn up at the car park, delivery dock, or customer service counter and collect your trolley. It’s like the grocers of the early 1900s, but with no queues!

Buy best brands

When you’re shopping online, you can search for an item and you’ll be shown all the brands that carry that particular product, so you can make an informed choice. Although these items are also stocked on supermarket aisles, promoted and discounted products are located in prominent positions, like the end of an aisle or at eye height on the shelf. This means it is easier to comparison shop when you’re in front of a screen.

Reduce impulse buys

The more you browse, the more you spend. Sometimes we get goodies outside of our shopping list simply because we’re ‘reminded’ of them. It can be a chocolate bar or an extra bag of chips—little (and usually tasty) things. But these small items add to our bills (and our waistline) if we’re not careful, much like when you take on too many Buy Now, Pay Later transactions which you can read up on in our money safety article.

It’s not necessarily an essential purchase, but we buy it because we can. This habit is minimised when we buy groceries online because we can’t smell and touch produce that reduce our willpower to resist.

Shopping online at Coles and Woolworths

Repurchase from your previous order

If you have an account and want to order again, your purchase history is recorded for you. The website remembers your preferred brands and the items you previously bought. All you have to do is check out again.

Keep your sanity

Sometimes you have to bring your toddler along to the shop, elderly parents, or maybe even your whole family. This can be a nightmare. You’ll hear some “Mum, can we buy this?” and some “Dad, can we go now?” and it can be quite frustrating. Save yourself, if it's a hassle to bring your kids or your parents. Shop online.

No sales talk

Sticking to your budget is easier when you shop online as you don’t interact with human supermarket staff. You’ll avoid the cashier recommending that you sign up for the store rewards card, or maybe it’s the store greeters offering you coupons. Salespeople have their own tactics which you can learn more about here. When you’re at home, you’re not persuaded to buy because of sales staff.

Avoid COVID Exposure

When you shop online, you don’t have to worry about being rejected entry because of masks and the latest restrictions. You also avoid any possible COVID exposure, and protect yourself and your family. And you don’t have to wonder which supermarkets are open during a lockdown; you can access them directly from your screen.

Refunding is easy

If your frozen goods arrive at room temperature or the fruit you receive isn't that fresh, it’s actually pretty easy to ask for a refund! Head online, select the purchase and complain. Remember to request a refund.

But if they don’t give you your money back, you can share your complaint with us and we’ll make sure you get the best deal from your supermarket setback.

These are some benefits of shopping for your groceries online. But what about the cons? We discuss the drawbacks of virtual grocery shopping rather than in-store supermarket visits in part two of our article.

If you have encountered issues with your online grocery purchase or did not receive an item you bought, you can lodge your complaint with us. We’ll help you go through the complaint process.