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, as listed below.
The big hitters all feature developed sites that are well laid out and offer comprehensive ranges of fresh food, drinks, and household goods. Most offer apps for iOS and Android, too.
Functionality is pretty much the same across the board, with all the sites proving easy to use, search and understand. You'll also find that you are able to save items and lists for future orders, which is a huge time saver.
Loyalty schemes are worth taking note of, as there are some good deals available to regular shoppers. 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 quadrupled in value - so a £5 Clubcard voucher transfers into £20 at Pizza Express.
Sainsbury’s offers Nectar points for its customers, and again this applies to online, in-store, or at the petrol pump.
Waitrose has a range of benefits that change on a regular basis, but an interesting one is that MyWaitrose card holders are entitled to a free cup of tea or coffee when they visit a store. Very civilised.
One of the newest and most interesting additions to the mix, though, is Amazon Pantry. This is exclusive to Amazon Prime members and has a unique approach to deliveries. Each order goes into a 20kg box, and when you add an item you’re told how much space it takes up.
The first box costs £2.99, and additional ones in an order go for £0.99. At the moment the food is restricted to tins and packets rather than fresh, but there is still a decent range on offer and if you want to stock up on cupboard essentials or pet food in bulk then it can work out surprisingly cheap.
There is a huge range of items available, from tins and cans to bottles and cleaning supplies. If you want to stock up on cupboard essentials or pet food in bulk then it can work out surprisingly cheap.
What are the advantages of online shopping?
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 confectionary 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.
Most of the time, delivery will only be a few pounds, and when you consider how much time and stress that'll save you we think it's well worth it.
Having your shopping delivered to your door has a strong appeal for most people, especially when booked into specific slots which can be almost any time of day or evening.
Due to intense competition between supermarkets there are often deals to be had online.
Then there is the added benefit of being able to set up regular shopping lists, so you don’t have to start with a blank slate every time you begin your order. Plus you can do the big shop while sitting on the sofa binge-watching Netflix. The future is beautiful, and slightly unhealthy. Just remember to order some fruit.
How to use an online grocery shopping service
It will come as no great surprise that shopping for groceries online is little different to that of any other retail experience, with the exception that there will be more items in your basket at the end.
Once you’ve set up an account with an online supermarket the first thing you’ll need to do is book a delivery slot. This will usually be either one or two hours long, and will be priced differently according to demand so peak times (typically weekends) are more expensive. It’s a general rule that £6 is the most you’ll have to pay, with some slots costing as little as £1.
Most supermarkets now offer 'season pass' options for delivery, so you can pay a set amount for a period - say £35 for six months - then have as many deliveries as you want for no extra cost. There are some restrictions though, as all the major outlets require a minimum order amount before you can have an order delivered. These change over time, so be sure to check them out before you begin.
There are some restrictions though, as all the major outlets require a minimum order amount before you can have an order delivered. These change over time, so be sure to check them out before you begin.
Depending on the location you might find that a supermarket won’t actually deliver to your address. Thankfully this isn’t necessarily the end of your online adventures. If you’re happy to pick up your shopping from the store itself, then Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose offer a free Click and Collect service where you order online, pay for the items, then have them bagged up and ready to go when you reach the store. Not quite as convenient as a delivery, but at least you avoid the queues.
The online shopping process itself is simple, you just visit the various sections - fresh food, frozen food, drinks, snacks, etc. - and add items to your order. You’ll see suggestions for complementary products or current promotions, and there are often sections that include recipes for healthy living or seasonal meals. Once you’ve finished your order the site will save the items into a
Once you’ve finished your order the site will save the items into a favourites section so you can quickly access them next time.
Make sure you 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.
If you’re willing to break ranks though you 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.
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 store is right for you?
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 someone once said, every little helps.