U.S. consumers rank regional chains H-E-B and Publix Super Markets at the top in online grocery pickup service, according to a study by global research firm Ipsos.
Among 14 retailers examined, Texas grocer H-E-B led all players in fulfilling online orders through pickup, the latest Ipsos E-Commerce Experience Report found. The study reflects results from a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, an analysis of the most important pickup attributes to consumers and 100 “mystery shops” per brand to gauge key performance indicators. The latter include user experience with online and/or mobile ordering platforms, order accuracy and product quality, order volume impact on wait times, retail associates’ adherence to pickup instructions, and availability of menu items and inclusion in online orders.
H-E-B, based in San Antonio, came in first among grocery stores primarily due to in-stock availability, its ability to schedule pickup times and good instructions on pickup orders, Ipsos said. Flawless order accuracy, no fees or order minimums, and strong communication with customers also drove H-E-B’s high marks in pickup service, the researcher added.
Meanwhile, ease of ordering and “superb” communication lifted Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix to a close second in pickup service excellence, Ipsos said, noting that the southeastern grocer also earned kudos from customers for order accuracy and contactless fulfillment.
Coming in third for pickup service was hard discount grocer Aldi, which operates nearly 2,000 stores nationwide. Ipsos said Aldi performs strongly in pickup scheduling flexibility, in-stock availability, order accuracy and overall satisfaction.
“As we continue to see the adoption and usage of digital offerings rise, it is critical for brands to ensure a seamless and safe end-to-end e-commerce experience to keep customers coming back,” commented Carlos Aragon, vice president of channel performance at New York-basded Ipsos.
The latest findings marked the third wave of Ipsos’ ongoing e-commerce research, which revealed that many Americans have embraced the convenience and speed of contactless online services from grocery chains and restaurants.
Seventy-eight percent of Americans have stepped up their use of in-store and curbside pickup options since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Ipsos reported. Even with widespread availability of vaccines and lower incidence of the virus, 69% of respondents said they expect to continue using e-commerce services at the same rate or more.
As a result, retailers must ensure that customers’ initial experience of ordering via their mobile app or online platform is seamless and intuitive, Ipsos noted. Its research found that user-friendly ordering portals earned higher scores, whereas difficult-to-navigate platforms raised complaints “almost without exception,” the researcher said. Likewise, a lack of clarity on how, when and where to pick up an order was a chief complaint, the study found. Ipsos said retailers should ensure pickup instructions are clear and concise and that e-commerce staff follow them.
Two of the oldest issues with ordering for pickup — predating even online ordering — are timeliness and accuracy of order fulfillment, according to Ipsos. To that end, retailers must take pains to be sure customers are getting what they ordered and don’t have to wait a long time to receive it.
“Knowing which brands are leading the pack — and more importantly, why — is critical to succeeding in the e-commerce economy,” Aragon added.
Of the 12 restaurant brands in the Ipsos study, Chipotle ranked No. 1 in pickup service. The researcher cited a simple ordering process, easy-to-find pickup locations and the fact that nearly all pickup sites were in-store. Panda Express came in second, offering an easy order platform and both in-store and drive-thru pickup, while Subway finished third, also providing user-friendly ordering and a combination of in-store and curbside pickup. Still, Ipsos noted that Chipotle could improve in customer communication for pickup service, and Subway lost points for a lack of guidance and parking.