Online grocery market in Dubai must improve customer experience


April 11, 2019 | By RetailME Bureau

Global digital consultancy Practicology has assessed a group of 10 online grocers in Dubai against a set of global best practice criteria for selling food online. The findings highlight how much more online grocers in the region could be doing to provide an excellent online experience, customer service and delivery experience.

The best performing Dubai grocer in the research scored 51% against the criteria. In comparison, when Practicology conducted the same analysis for UK online-only grocer Ocado it scored 80%, showing that there is significant room for improvement among its peers in the UAE.

Practicology also analysed the two largest marketplaces in the region selling ambient food items – SOUQ and noon – against the relevant criteria. SOUQ scored particularly well; and has developed a customer experience and proposition for ambient that could see it positioned for broader success were it to launch Amazon’s Fresh or Pantry services in the region.

The Dubai Online Grocery Report 2019 highlights benchmarks that all online grocers in the region should be working towards if they want to delight consumers. These include:

  • Payment methods: Only half of the 10 online grocers give customers the option of paying for an order online or offline; though cash on delivery and card on delivery are both demanded by customers in the region.
  • Delivery convenience: Thirty percent of online grocers offer a bookable one-hour delivery slot, and a further 30% offer a two-hour delivery slot. However, retailers should offer a one-hour slot with a delivery infrastructure that prioritises punctuality.
  • Delivery service: The best retailers offer punctual delivery to the customer’s front door by a friendly delivery driver, with branded packaging and product separated into ambient, fresh and frozen produce. However, only half the retailers delivered within the timeslot.
  • Product information: In addition to product ingredients and descriptions, there are other key pieces of product data that help consumers to assess products. Only 30% provided nutritional and allergen information about products stocked, and only 20% indicated the likely product use-by date/lifespan of the food items they were selling.
  • Ratings and reviews: These are also valuable to other customers trying to decide which products to buy. Although 60% of the retailers have ratings and review functionality on their site, there was very little actual review content available.
  • Onsite search: Seventy percent of the grocers surveyed provide search boxes with predictive technology to autocomplete the search term and get customers to the result they want more quickly. However, only 20% allow customers to refine their search results by customer rating, and only one (10%) allows results to be refined by dietary requirements. None allow search results to be refined by use-by date or price per gram. As site search tends to be used more on grocery websites than other types of e-commerce sites, great search and filtering functionality is crucial to delivering a great overall site experience.
  • Customer service: There was substantial room for improvement in the customer service offered by the retailers, both in terms of the variety of ways customers can contact them and the time taken to respond. Forty percent did not respond to an e-mail enquiry, and a further 10% did not offer e-mail support at all. Thirty percent responded to e-mail enquiry within one hour, and further 20% responded within four hours. The quickest e-mail response received came 10 minutes after the query was sent, and one retailer offered customer service via email, Live Chat or WhatsApp.

“There are some clear recommendations to online grocery retailers from this research that they should take notice of. We have seen the online grocery sector heating up this year, and established players need to stay on top of the competition both from start-ups and marketplaces,” said David Quaife, managing director – MENA, Practicology. “There is clear best practice for providing an excellent customer experience at every stage of the buying journey. We hope that our research provides inspiration and advice to online grocers in the region as they continue to evolve.”

Each retailer was reviewed on criteria related to its site usability and content, payment methods offered, customer service, delivery proposition and delivery service. The 10 retailers reviewed includes aswaaq, Carrefour, Choithrams, El Grocer, Instashop, Kibsons, Lulu, Quality Food, Supermart and Trolley. In addition, digital marketplaces noon and SOUQ were also reviewed against the criteria that were relevant to their models.

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