How Can an Awesome Online Experience Get Better? Here’s Some (Unsolicited) Web 2.0 Advice for Manhattan’s FreshDirect


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If you are a Manhattanite, you know FreshDirect, the online grocery. Its delivery trucks roll throughout New York City’s residential areas. If you are not a New Yorker, you are missing out on this most awesome of online grocery shopping experiences.

It’s not just the web site. The end-to-end customer experience is terrific. FreshDirect delivers really good produce and even some of the best fresh fish in Manhattan. Its bananas come protected in bubble wrap. Should anything go wrong with a delivery, a replacement will arrive at no extra charge the next day.

FreshDirect’s web site has become really sophisticated over the years. You can pull up your previous shopping carts and edit them, giving you a virtual shopping list and cutting your shopping time dramatically. You can load the entire ingredients for recipes into your cart with a single click. The site also suggests other items you might like.

Yet, the one thing you will not find on today is a Web 2.0 experience.

There are no customer reviews, no recipes uploaded by customers and no videos uploaded by customers to share their own take on FreshDirect’s recipes. Nor are there dinner clubs that allow home chefs to network with each other over FreshDirect meals.

Imagine you are a customer experience consultant brought in to advise FreshDirect’s CEO whether the company should augment its web site with social media features or invest in other ways of growing the business (advertising, offering free delivery or working with the ikan household inventory device).

I asked a room full of Manhattanites that question. And everybody agreed that Web 2.0 features would be highly desirable for the customer experience. Then I asked the key question FreshDirect’s CEO would want to know: Would FreshDirect sell more groceries as a result?

I could easily imagine some folks going to to interact socially while continuing to shop their groceries. But we figured that for most people, the choice had more to do with their lifestyle—whether they keep a car, or whether they prefer picking produce themselves—than the addition of Web 2.0 features.

We considered whether FreshDirect’s existing customers would buy more groceries because of Web 2.0. Probably not, we thought. A person can eat only so much in any given day.

Back at home, my spouse, a hobby chef, identified the missing link in our thinking. In cooking and grocery shopping, it makes a huge difference whether you are buying everyday staples or a long list of delicate ingredients needed for refined recipes. A little this, a little that, to complete a French recipe, and the grocery bill will climb through the roof! An initiative designed to motivate customers to go beyond Ramen noodles does have great promise for ROI.

So how do you get from here to there if you’re FreshDirect? This is where good customer analytics come in, and here’s what I would advise the CEO to:

  1. Design the user-generated content strategy around recipes.

    FreshDirect should allow registered customers to rate recipes, upload their own versions and link to their YouTube videos of how they prepared them.

  2. Allow friends to see how their friends rate recipes.

    FreshDirect should enhance its “you might also like” recommendations through the use of collaborative filtering. If I rated recipe XYZ highly, I would be interested in seeing what other recipes have been rated highly by other customers who also liked recipe XYZ.

  3. Display ads on the site to customers who are not yet participating.

    If I am buying a major ingredient that happens to be used in recipes highly favored by people with my buying and cooking habits, then could flash up an offer for me to check out those recipes and video demonstrations.

  4. Run win-back emails to lapsed customers.

    If I bought swordfish filet in the past but haven’t returned to FreshDirect since, I should receive a win-back email, asking me to rate the filet and maybe even including a recipe for swordfish filet and a link to videos of people preparing swordfish.

  5. Customers should be able to rate other reviewers.

    If 10 people have tried a recipe and liked it and one person hated it, then that person’s review should sink to the bottom of the list over time.

    Yet if the person who hated the recipe is otherwise behaving and shopping like me, then that person’s review should show up first when I browse the web site. Customer analytics, baby!

  6. Work toward increasing participation.

    FreshDirect should segment its site visitors into multiple buckets, such as couch potatoes who don’t bother with recipes versus readers, critics and creators of user-generated recipes and videos. FreshDirect should measure the participation funnel of these user segments to manage the process of engaging more and more customers over time.

  7. Measure whether it is working.

    Web analytics would be used to measure the average order values of couch potatoes versus those of recipe readers and recipe creators. The goal is to increase the average order value of those who participated over time.

    Customer analytics should show whether participants are more likely to stay loyal to FreshDirect over the years. For the short term, FreshDirect would take surveys of customers before implementing Web 2.0 features and after.

FreshDirect already has a superb end-to-end experience for customers, but imagine what it would be like enhanced by Web 2.0. You’re planning a dinner party and bring up your last FreshDirect shopping cart with party ingredients. Clicking on “artichoke” (you’ve made that dip a thousand times) sends you to different recipes, including one for an innovative salmon puff with expensive truffle oil. You’ve never made something like that before, but a video shows you how easy it is and how impressive (and mouth-watering) the finished product would be. You can’t wait for your party.

If you have an online business, you can make this type of move. With the right strategy, you just might find that Web 2.0 holds great promise for accentuating your customers’ experience and delivering ROI, too.


  1. Well said…the value of interactivity for an online communication tool is important for any organisation from a branding as well as consumer engagement perspective. You may like to take a look at my research paper on an optimal solution for interactive features in a corporate blog. Pls note the approach is from a strategic perspective and not from the domain of web analytics
    Improving interactivity for increased brand communication

  2. I have had a similar conversation with friends who love FD. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that allowed you to build a friend list and share your cart? I know I get in shopping ruts — would be cool to see what others are buying and have the ability to send a quick message saying “hey, saw you ordered artichokes. how do you prepare them?”
    Of course I’d want the ability to control what i share/don’t share (a la but it would be very hand if this type of sharing preferences could be set by category (i.e. “don’t share” paper products purchases.
    I can’t say that I would buy more food, but who knows, maybe I would — maybe I’d try new things and my weekly purchases would increase b/c I’d have more variety and would feel less of a need to hit Whole Foods for inspiration.
    I’m a FD “power user” — I love FD and really cannot imagine functioning as a working parent w/out it. I even link all of my DIY baby food recipes out to FD ingredients to make it easier to buy and make baby food for friends who follow me!


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