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Usability Study: Comparing Online Supermarkets

How users experience online grocery shopping.

Everybody needs to buy groceries. It´s a necessity. And it´s becoming increasingly difficult to fit in our busy schedules. Although it´s rather enjoyable for some to browse a shop to look at different products on display, online supermarkets offer an appealing alternative, especially when it comes to buying everyday products.

User Experience & Online Supermarkets
Remember the visual experience you have when strolling down a shop aisle? Why is this shopping experience is not coherent with the one you have in an online shop? Maybe because online shopping is supposed to be fast and easy. The problem is, that the navigation structure of most web shops make it impossible to know which items are on sale or worth looking at. Searching for a certain product can easily turn into a click marathon along different drop-down menus. Online supermarkets seem to have not yet been successful in incorporating all of their offline advantages. In most web shops, online food shopping often turns into a tedious task. If a user is bored, he is unlikely to purchase anything spontaneously.
Impulse Buying Behaviour

Impulse Buying Behaviour
Instead of browsing an online shop and buying whatever gets their attention, users often decide to create a standardised shopping list. It saves online customers time and effort, but it turns shopping into a deliberate activity. In most cases, new products are not added to the shopping basket on a regular basis and users do not treat themselves to new items. It keeps a user from spending more money, and a shop provider from earning more revenue.

Online supermarkets should make an effort to improve the User Experience, allowing users to take a virtual tour of their products and offers with a more visual and intuitive interface, instead of using menus and drop-down navigation. It allows customers to quickly and easily discover new products and add them to their shopping basket.

To identify issues and opportunities for improvement, it is necessary to continuously conduct online based usability studies. In-depth interviews and focus groups help identify what customers really expect from their online shopping experience.

Tree Testing identifies weaknesses

Tree Testing identifies weaknesses
At UserZoom, we conducted a usability test to find out how easily users understand the terminology of online supermarkets when looking for a specific product. By means of an international Tree Test we asked a total of 180 users to search for certain items. The study was conducted in three countries: United Kingdom (ASDA, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s), Spain (Mercadona, Carrefour, Caprabo), and Germany (EDEKA, REWE, Bringmeister).

Every user performed 5 different tasks with regards to the navigation structure of 1 online supermarket. The participants were asked to look for the following products:

  1. Honey
  2. Juice
  3. Muffins
  4. Pizza
  5. Rubbish bags

Although it looks like a short and simple shopping list, more than half of the users were not able to find a product in their first attempt.

Users do not always find what they are looking for straight away
The success rate for finding a product in the first attempt was generally low. The participants found most products by simply looking at many, different menus. The longer it takes users to find what they are looking for, the more the user satisfaction decreases.

Main product categories are not always clear
A lot of products are placed under parent categories, which are not clearly named. Users browse the shop for a long time, opening different menus in order to find a desired product. At ASDA, when searching for honey, only 5% of the users were able to find the product right away. After several attempts, the result increases to merely 16%. The majority searches in the ‘Condiments, Sauces & Seasonings’ section rather than looking in ‘Cereal, Tinned & Dried’.

To many options with a similar meaning
Although users intuitively find a parent category, they tend to choose a wrong path as soon as they start having doubts about the navigation structure – especially, if they are confronted with several options which are too similar. At Sainsbury’s users find it difficult to understand the difference between “Breakfast Muffins” and “Muffins”.

Names are not intuitive
Sometimes products are found in a category, which users don´t relate to. The name used at Waitrose to categorise the parent level for rubbish bags is “Cleaning Cupboard”. Most users don´t expect them to be there, but search in “Foils, Bags & Wraps” instead – resulting in not finding the bags at all.

Where do online shoppers succeed the most and why?
By means of the Tree Test we identified 5 Best Practices for naming categories in a navigation structure.

Tree Testing – Best Practices – How to name product categories in a navigation tree:

1. Be simple: no ambiguous categories,

2. Be clear: avoid similar names,

3. Be specific: no generic terms,

4. Be intuitive: main categories should indicate what´s inside subcategories,

5. Be explicit: don´t use time of consumption as reference.

For further insight and information, download the full study below.

Download Whitepaper

Dolors Pou

Dolors Pou

UX & Marketing Manager