Buying groceries might seem like a simple routine task to do until you finally get down to doing it. Even the thought of going to the supermarket is so annoying- struggling for parking, coping with the crowd, dodging shopping carts, waiting in long lines, it seems to always take longer than planned. Ugh-it’s icky to do that every time as groceries are not a discretionary expense, you need something every week. No doubt online grocery shopping has gained bountiful attention lately, by letting your food and other necessities come to you instead of you having to go get them. It’s not a niche service anymore, especially for the urban millennial.
In fact, as per a report by IbisWorld the online grocery industry is a $13 billion industry in the US—and rapidly expanding.
With the convenience of an online grocery service, consumers sit in the comfort of their home any time of day or night and pick their everyday products on a supplier’s website and schedule a time for their food to be dropped off at their door step. Imagine no more bag lugging, avoiding the grocery-store hassle and saving some money and time. I am not going to explain much about the process here as all of you have probably used an e-grocery service at least once (if not many times), thanks to our insanely busy schedules.
With the recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon the online grocery service market has become one of the most competitive fields and with many players competing. As far as digital customer experience goes, my all-time favorite is AmazonFresh which I consider to be the gold standard in the industry. In this report though, I have decided to compare the digital experience of two of the other top online grocery retailers- FreshDirect and PeaPod.
Keep reading to see what I thought of each service.
If you are a New Yorker, you know FreshDirect. It’s been around in the New York city for almost 15 years and has become a household name. It is a division of Fairway, a popular grocery store chain. Lately, it has expanded to other states including: New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.
FreshDirect is popular for its distribution of just-picked fruit and vegetables (with local and organic options). It caters to all those crazy busy people who love making and eating fresh, mouth-watering food. The website also offers custom-prepared groceries and meals for its customers. It also offers wines, both domestic and foreign. But in terms of pricing, when compared to other online grocery retailers, FreshDirect is surely not for the frugal shoppers.
The website is pretty cluttered, but it covers a lot of variety, from regular grocery products to cleaning products and flowers. It has some incredibly effective website functionalities and user engagement features that have helped it in driving sales over the years and becoming one of the top performers of the industry.
Their home page banner is regularly updated to reflect real-time deals and promotional codes. Just like its name, the imagery and CTAs used in the site also look fresh and vibrant. Compelling language such as “Freebie Mondays” and “The Freshest Groceries Delivered to your Door” simply entice visitors and spark interest in buying fresh stuff.
Their messaging is simple and precise. In order to emphasize on critical keywords, they have made use of different text styling and fonts, which is great. Offering first time users a fabulous deal of “2-month delivery pass trial for just one penny” is just the right stroke played by them.
I’m surely wowed by FreshDirect’s One-Click Recipes. It certainly adds up to its popularity by understanding the nuances of how people buy groceries. You can search your favorite recipe by cookbook title, recipe author, main ingredient, skill level, special occasion and also using there Google-esque advanced recipe search.
Their mobile app also offers a consistent experience to its users, just like the website.
Other Features which I loved
-The “Reorder” button, which enables you to pull up your previous shopping carts and edit them without having to browse around, cutting your shopping time dramatically
-“Fresh Deals”, “Sale” and “Coupons” sections (even AmazonFresh don’t have coupons) to let you save on selected seasonal items and brand favorites
Separate sections for “New” and “Top-rated” products
-Every single food item page will also tell you about its nutrition facts and related recipes
-You can load the entire ingredients for a recipe into your cart with a single click
-In response to Amazon entering the grocery market with Whole Food, they now offer a same day delivery service (though in limited areas as of now) through Foodkick
-The Quickshop option on their mobile app allows customers to call up all orders they’ve made, pick one, and reorder or modify it
-Depending on your past purchase, FreshDirect will send you customized email alerts to inform about the products becoming available in season
-FreshDirect doesn’t allow customers to buy some produce in small quantities. For instance, I couldn’t order just one organic yellow banana – I needed to order minimum 3
-FreshDirect doesn’t allow registered customers to rate recipes, or upload their own
-Do not expect to get a personalized homepage even if you are a regular customer. If you are a vegetarian expect lots of meat, burger imagery and offers. However, you will find some level of personalization with product searches, the system does display your favorite brand first based on past purchase once you are shopping in the food category
-I haven’t received any win-back emails. I bought Turkey long back but haven’t visited their website since then. Ideally, I should have got a win-back email asking me to rate their service or the food that I bought in the past, perhaps along with related recipes. Or offer me a coupon to get back purchasing because if you loose me to a competitor it’s expensive to get me back
Peapod is a company associated with Stop & Shop, a chain of supermarkets located in the northeastern United States. Peapod is pretty much like the quintessential suburban grocery store that offers all the mass-market, conventional brands you’ll find in a regular supermarket, while FreshDirect is more inclined towards high-end customers.
Peapod’s website doesn’t look as jumbled as FreshDirect and is a little nicer at displaying items up close. It has some special features (both for mobile app and desktop platform) to help customers shop quickly by selecting the right grocery items and save some money.
The website allows shoppers to sort products based on nutritional needs such as dairy-free, gluten-free, fat-free, low calorie (similar to FreshDirect).
The Features which I liked
-“Express Shop” tab to quickly select or type the list of items you want to buy. Then it will display the available products matching your first item, followed by the second, and so on
-“Order Genius” makes it easy for shoppers to buy their favorite items faster by instantly auto-filling your cart with the items you buy most frequently. It really expedites the reorder process
-“Favorites” button that stores your favorite items and brands, helping with personalized shopping
-“Specials” tab that displays a number of weekly “on-sale” products
-Whenever you select a product, they will also showcase a substitute item. It’s beneficial when the item you want is unavailable
-Apart from offering “Delivery time-slots” Peapod also offers the option of “Pick-up time slots” that allows you to pick up your groceries at your local Stop & Shop.
-The site allows you to request an item they don’t currently carry. I absolutely loved that feature
Things I Wish They Had
-Peapod doesn’t seem to provide same-day delivery option which means it’s not a good option if you need last-minute groceries
-You will have to really struggle with navigation. It lacks a main menu with expansive dropdowns that list out all options/pages for the shopper. All the items are stacked under a section “Browse Aisles”. And the products don’t appear simply on hovering on that tab. For example, if you need to buy an organic apple. First click on “Browse Aisles”. Then click on “Produce”. Then click on “Fresh Fruits”. Then on “Apples”. Arghh.. way too much clicking
-No recipe section in the website
-Absence of Social Media Share “Icons” on its product pages
-The product page is not as informative and descriptive as FreshDirect. In most of the items, FreshDirect tells you everything about it- short description, related recipes, cooking, storage, ingredients, nutritional facts, product rating
-The product rating is missing for many of their products, and for the ones it is there, you can see it only when you… click on that item. They do let you rate any of their products though. On the contrary, in FreshDirect, you can even sort the grocery items based on “Expert Rating”.
All in all, FreshDirect has an edge over Peapod as far as digital experience goes. It has a lot of features and educational content that really helps shoppers in not just buying the right things, according to food and dietary habits, but also learning new things. FreshDirect has more choices for grocery items especially organic and local foods. FreshDirect seems to offer high-quality fresh foods where you will find your favorite brand-names for sure. But when compared to AmazonFresh, both brands unquestionably need a lot more enhancements. I can prove this with a few examples:
-Although the product pages on FreshDirect are quite informative, they can’t beat AmazonFresh. The buying guide associated with each product on Amazon is simply awesome. It just tells you everything you need to know
-I was not very impressed with the variety being offered on FreshDirect or PeaPod for some products as compared to AmazonFresh
-The “Search” bar in FreshDirect is not very prominent. It is quite smaller in size and seems lost between other “green” elements
Just look at AmazonFresh’s Search bar, so protruding and wide- you can’t give it a miss.
-Customer reviews really helps in building credibility for your brand. But both FreshDirect and PeaPod lacks this very important feature. On the contrary, AmazonFresh has a review section beneath each product page where users can either read a review or leave a review. Again, a brownie point for AmazonFresh
Amazon is undoubtedly a better customer experience with many more options and range of products. Amazon’s operational expertise, price cutting on organic food, one hour delivery are completely reshaping customer expectations of how they want to shop online and now in store, laying tremendous pressure on the entire grocery market.