Online grocery shopping is more popular than ever, with huge names like Amazon even getting in on the action. With so many options to choose from, we take a look at what's on offer and help you decide which service is best for you.
Which stores offer online grocery shopping?
There is quite a range of supermarkets and other retailers offering online groceries in the UK, including these:
Advantages of online shopping?
- Convenience + time-saving
- Mobile apps for shopping at work or on the bus
- Easy to re-order commonly purchased items
If you enjoy slowly browsing the aisles of Waitrose looking for something to inspire your culinary imagination, then online grocery shopping might not be for you. On the other hand, if the thought of marshalling a couple of toddlers past inconveniently placed confectionery shelves, all while trying to steer a determinedly wayward shopping trolley fills you with horror, well, online grocery shopping is probably going to be the best choice. Not to mention the fact that you'll save an hour or so of your precious time.
By simply using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you can have your groceries picked and delivered directly to your house, at a time slot of your choosing.
The shopping process is made very easy: the websites are well laid out and offer comprehensive ranges of fresh food, drinks, and household goods. All have accompanying iOS and Android apps, meaning you can shop at work, on the bus, or while binge-watching a Netflix boxset on your sofa.
Simply search for the item you want by typing its name, or browsing the various sections, then add the amount you wish to purchase to your basket. A running total is kept for you, meaning you don't go crazy and blow the whole monthly budget on one shop.
Many sites also feature a favourites list, generated either by you selecting items manually or the site noting ones you buy regularly, which can make it easy to quickly add the essentials. Another handy option is recipes that not only provide ideas for meals but can add all of the ingredients to your basket with a single click.
Deliveries are usually booked into time slots of two hours, so you don’t have to wait in all day wondering when the chicken for your roast will arrive. The price for these slots does vary, with more popular ones sometimes costing more, but on average you should expect to pay around £5.
Some offer money-saving schemes, such as Sainbury’s Delivery Pass service, which for a set monthly fee starting at £10 for 3-months of midweek deliveries (Tuesday-Thursday) up to £20 for 3-months of any day, allows you to lower the amount you spend on the van turning up at your door. Asda and Morrisons also call theirs Delivery Pass, while Tesco uses Delivery Saver, but you’ll normally find it under something similar on other sites.
In a few cases there’s also the option of a Click and Collect service, which allows customers to specific a two-hour window when they can visit a branch and pick up their shopping.
Take advantage of incentives
The chances are you have probably already developed some kind of affiliation with a supermarket brand and shop regularly at one location. This could be due to the fact it’s nearby, offers good parking, has the foods you prefer, or you align yourself with its values.
Online portals are simply extensions of the physical shops, so if you shop at Waitrose because you perceive it to offer higher quality produce than its rivals, then all you are changing by going online is your delivery method.
If this is the case then it’s probably sensible to continue your allegiance as you may well already be in some kind of loyalty scheme. Those willing to break ranks though could find it advantageous as there are some good incentives available to new customers of other outlets including big discounts and vouchers for first-time shoppers.
Loyalty and reward schemes
One of the perks of using a particular supermarket is a rewards program. You can collect points in store of course, but it’s also very much a part of the online experience, especially when you want to exchange your Clubcard, Nectar, or similar vouchers for products or days out.
For example; Tesco’s Clubcard is a real jewel in the crown for the supermarket giant, as the points shoppers accrue for spending money online, physically in-store, or at Tesco petrol stations, all go towards rewards. These include restaurant vouchers that can be tripled in value - so a £5 Clubcard voucher becomes a £15 voucher at Pizza Express.
Tesco has also announced a new subscription service - Clubcard Plus - which costs £7.99 per month but offers reductions on in-store brands, 2 10 percent discounts on 'big shops' in-store each month, plus benefits for Tesco Mobile and Tesco Bank customers. For more details see What is Clubcard Plus?
Sainsbury’s offers Nectar points for its customers, and again this applies to online, in-store, or at the petrol pump. These can be exchanged for discounts or items on eBay and other vendors. The company has also improved this feature by introducing a new smartphone app for Nectar that will store any points gained when using Sainsbury's shops either in-store or online. It also tailors special offers to your spending habits and makes it easier to spend your points.
Waitrose has a novel approach, in that there are no points to be collected in its My Waitrose initiative, instead customers can get instant rewards via the app, including discounts on particular lines, free prizes, 20% off fish products on Fridays, and even a free cup of tea or coffee when you visit the store and buy something.
Amazon Pantry and Fresh
Two relative newcomers to the mix are Amazon’s Pantry and Fresh services. Pantry is included in an Amazon Prime membership, and allows customers to buy everyday packaged grocery items (boxes of cereals, coffee, toilet paper, etc) and have it delivered next day for either £3.99 or if you only buy from the Amazon Pantry Free section then there’s no charge at all.
You do need a minimum spend of £15, but there are plenty of regular offers and discounts that can entice you to easily surpass that amount. There is a huge selection of items available, from tins and cans to bottles and cleaning supplies, so if you want to stock up on cupboard essentials or pet food in bulk then it can work out surprisingly cheap.
Depending on where you live, the Amazon Fresh service might also be available. As the name suggest, this provides fresh food – bread, milk, fruit, vegetables, meats, etc. – straight to your door. The service highlights the fact that it offers products from suppliers local to you (hence the restricted coverage) and all for an additional £3.99 p/m in the UK or $14.99p/m in the USA.
How to compare online grocery shopping prices
With many supermarkets offering very similar core products, it’s wise to use price as an indicator of which is best for you. MySupermarket is a price comparison site that allows you to see which outlet currently offers the best deals for your weekly shop and boasts that its users regularly save 30 percent off their bills.
The idea is that you create a free account then enter a shopping list from your preferred supermarket. The site then checks to see if other outlets offer better value or suggest alternatives products that are on offer. If you’re willing to take a little time setting up the service and don’t mind switching allegiances often, then it could prove a very frugal choice.
Which online supermarket is best?
As you can see from the range available there isn’t really a definitive answer. All of the major supermarkets offer a huge range of produce which mirrors that of their physical stores. With a quarter of all grocery shopping in the UK now conducted online it’s obvious that the brands see how important this market has become, hence the excellent websites on show. So really the choice comes down to your personal preference.
That being said, we strongly suggest that you take advantage of the new customer deals offered by the sites. Not only will this save you money, but you’ll also be able to sample the various outlets and decide for yourself which one has the best balance of products, rewards, and service for your needs. Before you give your loyalty to one brand, you owe it to yourself to sample the wares on offer and make a few savings along the way. As one of these companies says, every little helps.