Australians have not embraced online grocery shopping... yet

Roy Morgan recently reported that only 3% of consumers did their grocery shopping online in any four week period last year. The report also indicated Woolworths Online is the most popular online grocery retailer.

However, that could be about to change with news that US Retailer Amazon is set to enter the Australian online grocery market, according to the AFR (paywall site). In the United States, traditional department stores are being closed down, which many have linked to the impact of online retail and ‘The Amazon Effect’. It’s not too hard to realise similar changes could occur in Australia.

Will a floating drone mother ship (or other tech) delivering milk and bread change our minds on online grocery shopping? Ultimately, it will come back to consumers. Let us know what you think about the potential rewards and risks of the ever-expanding Amazon online services.

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My mother uses on line grocery shopping in desperation when we can’t get her shopping for her. Often the food that is delivered is not exactly what she ordered, or of a poor quality. Also often (standard) items are missing from the order without explanation. Delivery is haphazard.

Perhaps if more care was taken in delivering what was ordered, more people would utilize the services.

Amazon hard goods deliver (if you can get them to deliver to your address) what you ordered reliably. Hopefully the quality of groceries ordered through them will be as good. If they drone goods out, there won’t be the wait for the delivery.

I’m assuming they will tap into existing supply chains, rather than importing everything themselves, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Amazon will only take over if the Australian online grocery suppliers continue with their head in the archaic sand minimalistic approach to online sales.

(I hark back to my earlier comments about Jerry Harvey bleeting about Australians buying from overseas online stores instead of locally, while Australian stores make it difficult for online buyers by continuing to not make their stock inventory available online.)


I think you’d have to be desperate or, at least, unable to get to the shops yourself. Of course they’re going to choose the stuff that no-one else would buy, and to charge you for the privilege.

It’s inevitable that they’ll gradually start closing down physical shops, pushing people towards on-line ordering, saving vast amounts of money in staff and real estate.


@meltam, my personal experience with online shopping sounds very similar to what you have described. You’ve raised an interesting point that I had not yet considered about food supply. CHOICE has previously taken a position on the supermarket duopoly and some of the effects it has had on the supply chain and competition in general, so it will be interesting to see what happens in this space.

@Fred, there’s definitely a ‘human nature’ element to the existing approach, right down to the delivery driver who ran his trolly into my car one day!

Here’s a video about ‘Amazon Go’ that may be of interest to the discussion. It’s all speculative at this stage, but I can think of a few ways this could play out in Australia, either through partnerships or as another competitor on the grocery scene.

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Wow… That’s impressive.

I notice that all the shoppers are only buying a small amount (grab and go). If they intend competing with our duopoly and go large scale supermarket size, the use of shopping trolleys would allow even more technology to be embedded into the system.

The absence of checkouts would be a timesaving and make it very attractive.

Obviously the technology also eliminates in-store loss.

Needing an Amazon account would probably exclude people who don’t have smart phones such as the elderly, and those without credit/debit cards as they wouldn’t be able to get an Amazon account.

At present, our stores are just not up to competing with such a massive leap in innovation.

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I suffer from a severe anxiety and panic disorder . Even with medication I sometimes cannot leave the house . Online grocery shopping has been a god send to me .


A not often discussed benefit of Online Shopping is the saving in emissions, and cars on roads. Similar to public transport having a single or a few vehicles delivering for a much larger group of people saves fuel, wear and tear, accidents and our environment. But to ensure customer satisfaction and uptake the deliveries do need to be effectively and efficiently organised which to date has not always been the case.


Hi Brendan, I have been grocery shopping online for many years, starting with Shopfast! Have tried both Coles and Woolworths and have found the Coles site more user friendly and efficient. Out of stocks and substitutions are advised prior to delivery, and you can track your delivery online. Weekly catalogue specials are available and, if a substitute is more expensive than the original, you are charged the cheaper price. I am regularly supplied with free samples from various of their suppliers, e.g Weight Watchers frozen dinner, Weiss frozen yoghurt bars to name a few. And all is delivered straight to my kitchen bench by their delightful delivery men and women. The even take away the used plastic bags. There is the odd hiccup, but rarely anything major and it sure beats driving to the local Westfield, finding parking, fighting the crowds, queuing for a checkout, pushing a heavy trolley to the car, loading the goods into the boot, driving home, unloading and carrying it all into the kitchen! And it cuts out impulse buying.


Tried it a few years back, and experience much the same. Quite variable quality and items arriving we weren’t expecting vs missing some we were - and fruit/veg … yeah. At the time, it was Coles and they were quite happy to take criticism and refund on bad quality/etc - I hope that hasn’t changed. Both Coles and Woolies have been trying to woo me to online shopping, but honestly with a full time job and kids and being a dad looking after my own place, shopping is often a ‘smash and grab’ as I call it - yes I pay and I don’t smash anything, but it feels quicker than a ram-raid in among all the other things going on. Planning an online shop is a pipe dream … (I’m not a creature of routine, part of the problem …).

Now if online shopping offered the feature “oh, I forgot the milk, can you run back and grab a couple of B&D Farm Paris Creek 2L’s” then I might be more interested. As it stands, the kids can do that when we’re at the checkout :slight_smile: (yes I know, that feature is a long way off …)


Regardless of the supplier, you buy something, you get rubbish delivered, and you get a refund. That did not put a quality bit of product on your table when you expected it or needed it for dinner.

Refunds will never be replacements for delivering good product. The online winner will be the one that can be competitive and always deliver good product on time, not the ones that happily refund or apologies or accept criticism.


“What would it be like if we could use all this technology to eliminate employees and their pesky demands for reasonable pay and conditions?”


@sydneydowers I agree %100 with what you said in your post . Another point is damage to your car whilst left in super market car parks . They can cost you big time . I traded a vehicle in last week .It was 3 years old . Sight unseen the dealer gave me a great price for a change over . When they saw my trade in they took another $2000 off because to quote them " That car is in as new condition " I never took it to super market car parks . See if someone opens their door and dings your car minimum $500 damage to repair . Puts a bad scratch from a trolley hit .Minimum $500 to repair .
I’m lucky I must admit to owning 2 vehicles .I have an old Nissan Van I take to Coles destruction Derby car parks when I have to go there , not very often thank god. In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, doing your grocery shopping , especially with Coles, in my case , online works out cheaper in the long run . Imagine how much price wise the dealer would have taken off the trade in if it was pock marked with trolley damage and other inconsiderate people opening their doors and hitting and leaving damage on my car . Roll on more online . Just as a side note .The produce I get from the online Coles , Hoppers Crossing Store , is fresher than the 2 local Coles New Worlds , Altona Meadows and Altona . Maybe higher turnover or a manager that cares about consumers . Who knows

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My point was that at the time there was no contest, they just took your word for it - given that much of what the supermarket offers in the fresh section is rubbish, it’s hard to define where some meaningful and realistic cutoff in ‘acceptable quality’ might be and it would be trivial for supermarkets to argue the toss on that point - it certainly happens in other areas and it can by no stretch of the imagination be assumed that a refund is automatic without fair trading, ACCC or ombudsman intervention, as I’ve found on numerous occasions. Of course if they argued the toss there would be even more of us simply waiting until online actually works how we’d like it to.

Which might well be the reason I’m still waiting for such a winner to emerge … I don’t think it will happen - instead the peasants will learn to accept a lower standard of what will still be called ‘service’ …


I have been using Coles Online sporadically for years now. Not because as Fred suggests, Im desperate (dont get that comment, desperate would be going myself!). I ride a motorbike, I also have cats.

Products like cat litter, cans of cat food, containers of milk etc (you get the idea) are basically a logistical nightmare when you can only carry limited amounts each trip. If i need a handful of items, i head up on the bike. If i need more, I do a large shop and stock up on the heavy/bulky items.

Once the initial set up and selection of products is made on your account, its relatively easy. You just add from previous shops that were delivered unless you need something different obviously. Never tried Woolworths, but with Coles you can pay by EFTPOS or credit card. Cash isnt accepted. You arent billed until the actual order is packed, so you dont get charged for any items not stocked.

You can also elect for the retailer to “replace” those goods they havent got with similar, i usually elect not to - my choices arent what theirs necessarily would be. I would rather go collect those few items myself later. The products have always been fresh, cold as necessary and well bagged. The drivers timely and polite.

As far as delivery, you select the day and window timeframe you wish to have it delivered. Shorter timeframe (for example 6am to 8am as opposed to 6am to 2pm), costs a bit more, generally though its about $6-8. With most cars, they would use that in petrol Im guessing. Never mind the stress of crowded shops and stupid self serve machines. Coles also usually offer delivery fee free timeframes.

I also had an operation on my hand/arm last year, and another on my lung the one before and i wasnt able to ride the bike for weeks at a time after both while recovering - without online ordering I would have been in the position of relying on others to take me and carry everything. I like being independent where I can, even when injured.

Its not for everyone, and sometimes you may prefer to go in person but it works for others like me. If you can only be home at certain periods then yes, to get the delivery time you want, you need to think ahead a little.

Oh and once ordered, you can change the order until approx the night before.

I loathe shops, and crowds. I love online ordering. I havent tried Woolies though.


Not everyone has child slaves to do their bidding :wink:

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Those self serve machines are replacing more employees than online ordering, they still need ppl to get the stock, pack the bags and drive the vans.

Unlike self serve machines. I refuse to use them.


I am 100% in agreement with this. I refuse to use self service as it takes “bread from the mouths of children”.

If as a society we value employment we must have jobs for people to be employed in. Using self service (among other job reduction changes) reduces employment opportunities and thus wages, taxes, self worth, a host of other social and societal benefits and increases the profits of large companies who do not really care much about anything else than profit taking (for example Woolworths and Coles would not be so involved in gambling if they really cared about more than profits) .


I, for one, have embraced online shopping for my aging mother.

Mum is unable to recall anything new that is taught her - she can no longer retain any new knowledge.

Further, she is supported in her home by a company that deals with care of the aged. So, once a week, someone from the company collects her to take her shopping for a couple of hours. The only problem with this is that Mum is also no longer as able bodied or swift as she once was. So, by the time she has done her grocery shopping, she is exhausted and the time allocated for her to shop is up.

To free up this time for her, so that she can go shopping to buy clothing, or simply sit in a cafe, drink latte’s and watch the world go bye, I arranged for an online shopping account for her that I manage. Mum rings me nearly every day, so it was no issue for her to call me once a week and tell me the items that she needed going forward. We cross check it, and as it’s now a saved shopping list with one of the big two companies, I only need to go through the list with her saying yes or no to the item, and rarely but occasionally having to look up something new for her.

We have discovered that the cost for delivery is actually cheaper than a one-way taxi trip for her - so that’s a saving. Not only that, but she can now buy certain things in bulk - like her 15 litre filtered spring water, and the delivery man will bring it in and actually set it up for her in her kitchen.

There have been so many positives for my Mum. Not only that, but as I live in a small country town and not in the city where my Mum lives, I am now very aware of the groceries my Mum is getting, and no longer worry about what she may or may not be eating. Whether or not something in her cupboard is still in date or not, that she is getting fresh fruit and vegetables regularly.

As for Amazon coming to Australia - I can only hope and wait. No more grocery lines? I’m soooo up for that.


@grahroll When you find out the amount that theft of items from Coles and Woolies has risen since the introduction of Auto check out it is staggering . Find it out and work out how many real people could have been employed for the amount they lost .


Agree wholeheartedly. It also takes the humanity out of exchanges. Leaving the house to engage with machines and for some it’s the only community engagement they may have ie elderly.

First it was banks doing everything from closing branches to charging fees for teller transactions, rather higher fees in an attempt to discourage face to face transactions.

Can work efficiently for simple issues/matters but sometimes it’s more effective to engage with a person.