E-commerce – or buying things online – has grown in popularity over recent years and is now a daily activity for many people. Everything from clothes to the weekly food shop can now be ordered online but how does it work? And what do you need to know to buy your groceries online?
In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about buying groceries on the Internet.
We also have a handy FAQ section to help answer any immediate or pressing questions you may have.
Most high street stores have streamlined their services in order to keep up with the onset of the digital era. For customers this means a whole new way of purchasing everything from bedding to weekly groceries.
Shopping online has become popular with consumers for a number of reasons, such as:
Many of the reasons people cite for buying groceries online are also the benefits of the service. With websites accessible 24 hours a day, it is possible buy your groceries whenever is most convenient for you – a detail which can be invaluable to customers with impaired mobility.
The chances of your private data or finances being compromised when shopping online are extremely remote, providing you follow these simple safety procedures:
The convenience of shopping online means that consumers are now spared the hassle of visiting a local supermarket. The ability to buy food groceries online also makes it easy to avoid overspending on in-store deals designed to encourage you to deviate from your list.
Put simply, online grocery shopping involves using a web-enabled device to connect to the Internet and contact your local supermarket. You are then able to conduct your normal food shop by selecting the items on the screen and paying for them using a debit or credit card. Your food shop will then usually be delivered to your home on a day and in a time slot of your choosing.
Anytime. One of the best things about online grocery shopping is that you don’t need to make your purchases within supermarket opening hours. This means you can spend more time doing the things you love in the day and then sit down to do your food shop in the evening. Orders can be placed up to three weeks in advance and delivery slots can be narrowed down to the hour so that you don’t have to wait in all day.
Online grocery shopping is very simple to use. You first visit the webpage of your chosen supermarket and will usually be asked to conduct a quick postcode check to ensure they can deliver to your home. You must then register for an account before you can begin shopping. Some sites let you select your groceries without registering but you will be directed to the registration page when you go to enter the checkout. Once you have registered and chosen the items you wish to buy you will be asked to choose a delivery slot and pay – usually with a credit or debit card. Some companies offer free delivery if consumers have reached a minimum spend while others like Ocado, Tesco and Asda sell delivery passes with priority slots to encourage customer loyalty. First-time customers may be entitled to receive free delivery on their first order or money off their first shop so keep an eye out for these deals.
Each supermarket offers a fairly similar online shopping experience which makes it easy for you to place order online. You should still compare delivery times, delivery costs and minimum spend thresholds to ensure you’re getting the best deals.
Customers wishing to register for online grocery ordering will need to visit the online registration page of their chosen shop and provide some personal details.
The main online supermarket sites that offer home delivery are:
Shops which do not support home delivery but which still have websites that allow you to browse products and offers at your local store include:
Online shopping is more than just a convenient way to get your weekly groceries – it’s also a way to cut costs on your food bill. You can do this by using price comparison websites such as My Supermarket and Vouchercodes.
National newspapers such as The Guardian often write about the best online supermarkets too so it is worth taking a look at what they have to say.
This article on The Guardian is an example of the sort of thing you can expect to find:
Additionally, there are also a whole host of apps designed to help you cut the cost of your shopping bill. As well as the apps for My Supermarket and Vouchercodes mentioned above, you can also download apps which allow you to use your phone as a barcode scanner and compare the price of goods whilst shopping.
Some of the most popular examples of these apps include:
Once you have registered with an online grocery store, you are ready to begin shopping. We’ve outlined the basic process you’ll need to follow when online shopping below. As all websites are fairly similar, we’ve used Tesco as an example.
After you’ve logged in, you will be presented with a list of options. These allow you to:
When you find an item you want to buy, just click “Add” (shown as A on the image below). Once you’ve completed your list, click “Book Slot” (B on the image below) on the upper right bar and then make note of any delivery charges for a small shop (C on the image below).
N.B You may like to use a traditional list to help them shop online as it ensures that they select all of the goods and groceries that they need before proceeding to the checkout.
You must then click “Checkout” to proceed to the next screen which will offer you ‘Home Delivery’ or ‘Click & Collect’ in store options. You can also click “continue shopping” to add more items to your shopping cart if you’ve forgotten anything.
If choosing “Home Delivery” you will be offered a series of one hour slots across a selection of days. You must:
At the bottom of the page add any ‘Delivery Instructions’ or ‘Packing Instructions’ before clicking ‘Checkout’ to proceed.
If clicking “Click & Collect” you will be offered a different series of options. These will allow you to pop into the store at a convenient time to collect your groceries yourself and you must:
There is usually no fee for this service which can make it attractive to those who don’t want to pay delivery fees or who don’t qualify for free home delivery due to the size of their order.
You must then confirm your order. Click ‘Proceed to payment’ and enter your card details and billing address. On other sites you may be given a slight different command to choose – such as “place order” or “continue”.
At this point you will also have the opportunity to add any voucher or coupon codes from sites such as Vouchercodes ( see 3.4 )
Then click ‘Confirm Payment’ and Tesco will issue an ‘Order Confirmation’ and send you an email with your order number. This is a virtual receipt so make sure you save it in your emails or print it out.
Your items should arrive during the appointed slot and some important things to note here are:
Whilst takeaway food outlets like Dominos or Pizza Hut are happy to accept cash on delivery, due to issues with insurance and safety, supermarket delivery drivers are unable to provide this service.
Supermarkets are fairly strict when it comes to ordering groceries online, usually only accepting payment with a credit or debit card upfront at the time of order.
You may be able to use secure payment sites, such as PayPal (www.paypal.co.uk), when ordering other items online (such as clothes or takeaway food) but this is not common with online grocery stores.
When you order your grocery shopping online there are two ways to get it: by collecting it from the store or having it delivered to your home.
For those who choose home delivery for their grocery shopping, there are a few ways in which you can cut costs and make the service more efficient. These include:
There are many other things you can buy online as well as your groceries. Clothes, household items and even electrical appliances and gadgets can be purchased over the Internet and delivered to your home or collected in store at a more convenient time.
Here we offer a brief look at what else you can buy online and how to find the best deals.
There are many other things you can buy online as well as groceries. These include:
Some retailers also offer their customers the chance to pay for their items using a virtual payment service called PayPal which lets anyone with an email address and a bank account pay securely for goods online. This can be particularly useful if you have no cash in the house but want to order a takeaway or for added protection when using website to place orders.
There are a number of websites specially designed to help shoppers get the best deals whatever they buy.
Lots of deals are also available via retailers’ newsletters so be sure to sign up to your favourite stores if this interests you.
Once your order has been booked it will be sent to the processing team of the store you’ve used. They will collect your items from around the store, pack them safely and load them in to vans for delivery.
All supermarkets want to build customer loyalty with quality produce. Therefore the freshness of their products is paramount and they ensure that all groceries you buy are selected fresh from their supplies on the day of delivery.
As your shopping will be selected by specially trained staff in your nearest store, it should be of the highest standard. However, for guaranteed peace of mind, supermarkets usually pack short shelf life items or fresh produce separately so that customers can have a quick look on delivery and choose whether to accept these items or return them for a full refund.
Always choose a delivery date before beginning your online shop so you stand the best chance of securing your preferred slot. You can select a time for the delivery of your order from a series of available slots.
Delivery times vary between companies but some stores even offer ‘same day’ delivery up until 11pm and often you can book your delivery as far ahead as 21 days in advance.
If a product is unavailable on the day of your delivery, your driver will usually bring a substitute instead which will be documented and separately packaged. If you are unhappy with the substitute, hand it back to your driver and the supermarket will process a refund to your original payment method.
If you accept the substituted product then you will be charged for it at its normal price. You will not be charged for the original product.
If you’re out when the supermarket deliver your order, the driver will try to get in touch with you by phone. Alternatively they’ll pop a card through your letterbox with details on how to arrange an alternate delivery time.
For ease of use, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Tesco and ASDA all allow registered customers to save their previous shopping lists. Just login in to your account, move to the buying area and then select your saved shopping basket or favourites to order the same items again.
Paying by credit or debit card online is completely secure. Most supermarket use the Verified by Visa (VbV) security programme and the SecureCode system from MasterCard which allow customers to create their own personal password as an extra security measure.
If in doubt it is always best to check your credit provider’s website for more details or ask your bank for more help.
For grocery orders, your card will not be charged until your order is ready for delivery. Most stores accept valid MasterCard, Visa Credit and American Express along with any other UK registered cards. The address to which the card is registered must be the same as the billing address, although you may have the order delivered to a different address.
Supermarkets examine your store card usage and payment data to build up a consumer profile, tailoring their advertising to build customer loyalty. Allowing stores to track your consumer behaviour patterns is likely to enable you to benefit from coupons, loyalty rewards and specialist deals.
If items are damaged or missing from your order, you can request a refund online or by ringing the customer service helpline of your chosen supermarket. Most supermarkets are keen to build brand loyalty and will honour any statutory rights just as they would if you were unhappy with an item bought in store.
As both cigarettes and alcohol are age-restricted products, in the case of home delivery (just as in store) supermarkets will only sell these products to someone over the age of 18. The driver will ask to see ID and if dissatisfied will take the specific goods back with them. Check the terms and conditions page on your supermarket’s website for full details.
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