We rate SA supermarkets' online grocery delivery services out of 10

Checkers, Woolworths or Pick n Pay: which retailer is tops when it comes to delivering ingredients straight to your door?

05 July 2021 - 13:04
Woolworths, Checkers and Pick n Pay all say they've experienced an increase in online grocery shopping orders due to the third wave of Covid-19 and the country's move to level 4 lockdown.
Woolworths, Checkers and Pick n Pay all say they've experienced an increase in online grocery shopping orders due to the third wave of Covid-19 and the country's move to level 4 lockdown.
Image: 123RF/viperagp

With another serious lockdown and a soaring number of Covid-19 cases, the idea of ordering groceries online rather than braving a crowded supermarket is an enticing one.

Given that the concept is relatively new to SA, we were curious to find out whether clicking “add to cart” and having ingredients delivered to your door is as quick, easy and convenient as it sounds.

To find out, we asked our Food editor, Hilary Biller — who prefers to buy her groceries in store — to test the delivery services of the three major supermarkets who offer online shopping and share the results.

She ordered the same eight foods from Pick n Pay, Checkers and Woolworths, opting for house brands wherever possible. Her shopping list included the following staples: 2l fresh full cream milk; a loaf of sliced brown bread; a 750ml bottle of sunflower oil; a 170g tin of tuna; a 250g brick of butter; a 500g pack of lean beef mince; a whole fresh chicken; and a 2.5kg bag of maize meal.

She then scored the service of each supermarket out 10 using the following criteria:

  • ease of use of website/app (up to 3 points);
  • availability of products (up to 1 point);
  • delivery process (up to 3 points); and
  • overall experience (up to 3 points)

Biller admits to being a complete novice when it comes to online grocery shopping. However, she does purchase other types of products online. With that in mind, here’s her report:

CHECKERS

EASE OF USE: 3/3

Checkers says that you can “get all your favourite groceries delivered to your door in just 60 minutes” by using their Sixty60 app, which is free to download.

Of all three supermarkets, I found ordering from the Checkers app to be the quickest and easiest. As you open it an alert pops up indicating the time the delivery will take place. The groceries are divided into categories and colourful photographs of various products are featured.

A screengrab of the Checkers Sixty60 app.
A screengrab of the Checkers Sixty60 app.
Image: Checkers

For each item ordered, there is an auto select feature allowing you to select a replacement product in case the original is unavailable.

I was made aware of the specials at the start but wasn’t given the option to use my Checkers Xtra Savings card. (I later discovered this loyalty card can only be used in store.)

Payment options include using a Visa or Mastercard credit card, or a chip-enabled debit card. The minimum order is R100 and you have the option to tip the delivery driver separately on paying.

I received a confirmation of my order on the app.

AVAILABILITY OF PRODUCTS: 1/3

Four of the eight products on my shopping list weren’t available: the 250g butter, the brown bread, the lean beef mince and the chicken.

At the time of ordering, I selected the following replacement products: 500g butter, sliced white bread and standard beef mince. As there was no alternative to a whole chicken, I left it off the order.

In fairness to Checkers, the order was placed on the Monday afternoon after the announcement of adjusted level 4 lockdown rules the previous night.

DELIVERY: 2/3

The app had promptly indicated when delivery would take place. For me it was the next morning between 9-10am — over 19 hours later, and not in the 60-minute time frame as the service promises.

I was kept informed of the status of my order via WhatsApp. My delivery arrived at the said time and the chilled items were cold on arrival.

The groceries arrived in a large branded brown bag. The delivery person was wearing a mask in accordance with Covid-19 protocols and dropped the package at the gate. No signature or paperwork was required on handover.

How much Biller's groceries cost at Checkers.
How much Biller's groceries cost at Checkers.
Image: Toni Jaye Singer

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/3

TOTAL SCORE: 8/10

Note: After querying the delayed delivery time, Checkers responded that there had been an “unprecedented demand” for their Sixty60 service with “record order volumes” due to the third wave and move to level 4 lockdown. As a result, the brand says, “the available one-hour delivery slots fill up very quickly and so customers are encouraged to place their orders early in the day”.

PICK N PAY

EASE OF USE: 1/3

Of the three supermarkets, I found ordering from Pick n Pay’s website to be the trickiest. This is mainly because my email address didn’t seem to match the ID number and Smart Shopper loyalty card number they had for me on their system and so I couldn’t log on to the website.

I tried calling the Customer Helpline service  it was within business hours and an automated message indicated the service was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

So to continue, my only option was to cheat the system and register as new customer without using my Smart Shopper card.

It was time-consuming and frustrating selecting products. I found myself going backwards and forwards searching through the different categories to find the items on my shopping list. This is something I’m sure would improve if you used the service regularly.

There was no option to select replacements in case items are out of stock while adding products to your cart. However, at the checkout (before paying), you can choose to indicate whether you’d prefer not to have substitutes of products that are unavailable, or opt for a replacement with a space to add a comment. For example, if you are ordering avocados you could request ripe fruit only.

A screengrab of the Pick n Pay website.
A screengrab of the Pick n Pay website.
Image: Pick n Pay

Savings and specials are clearly marked in red under each item if applicable. Loyalty points are offered on transactions on all their online shopping channels.  

I was only able to select the next earliest (or my preferred delivery slot) after ordering. My order was then confirmed by an email and included the list of products chosen with the prices.

Payment options include using a Pick n Pay store account card, or Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club cards. There is no minimum order for online orders with Pick n Pay, and there was no option to tip the delivery person. 

AVAILABILITY OF PRODUCTS: 2/3

All the products on my list were available except for the 250g brick of house brand butter, which wasn’t listed on the website. I could only find a more expensive imported version, so I opted to order a 500g brick of their house brand butter instead. 

DELIVERY: 2/3

After placing my order, I was disappointed to discover that the next available delivery slot was four days away. That said, the communication around the status of order was excellent and I was kept informed via WhatsApp right up until it was delivered.

Pick n Pay was the only retailer to ask if I’d like my groceries to be placed in bags or not. I chose the latter, and the delivery person placed my order just outside my gate in large blue containers, from which I packed them into carry bags. 

Following all Covid protocols, the delivery person was wearing plastic gloves and a mask and kept his distance during our exchange. There was no paperwork on handover this had been e-mailed to me.

My delivery arrived at the said time and the chilled items were cold on arrival.

How much Biller's groceries cost at Pick n Pay.
How much Biller's groceries cost at Pick n Pay.
Image: Toni Jaye Singer

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/3

TOTAL SCORE: 7/10

Note: After querying the lack of sooner available delivery slots, John Bradshaw, retail executive: Omnichannel at Pick n Pay, said the brand was delighted to see so many customers finding their online services useful during lockdown.

“In periods of unexpected high volume we sometimes do not have slots available for next day, but we have moved quickly, adding 65% more slots to make sure we can serve customers well during this time,” he added.  

WOOLWORTHS

EASE OF USE: 3/3

I placed my order using the Woolworths website, which was easy to navigate, with mouth-watering food images for each category of food and a good breakdown making it easy to find items. Each product offers a description, how to use and handy things like nutritional information, allergens and ingredients.

As they had all the products on my shopping list, I wasn’t made aware of whether there’s the option to select replacements for items that are out of stock.

A screengrab from the Woolworths website.
A screengrab from the Woolworths website.
Image: Woolworths

Savings were clearly marked, but I wasn’t made aware of whether I could use my Woolworths loyalty card for the transaction. (I’ve since been informed that you can add your loyalty card details when registering your profile.)

I was only given the option to select a delivery time slot after I’d placed my order, which was confirmed via an e-mail that included a breakdown of the items in my order with prices.

Payment options include Mastercard and Visa credit cards, Woolworths store cards and gift cards, and select debit cards. There's no minimum order requirement for online orders, nor is there the opportunity to include a tip for the delivery person in the transaction. Delivery for online orders in excess of R450 is free; for those under R450 the delivery fee is R50.

AVAILABILITY OF PRODUCTS: 1/1

All the products on my shopping list were available. 

DELIVERY: 2/3

After placing my order, I was disappointed to discover that the next available delivery slot was three days away. I received a WhatsApp on the morning of delivery to confirm the time of my order’s arrival.

The handover was swift; the groceries arrived in two Woolworths plastic carrier bags and were dropped at the gate. The delivery person was masked and adhered to Covid-19 protocols; there was no paperwork to be signed.

My delivery arrived at the said time and the chilled items were cold on arrival.

How much Biller's groceries cost at Woolworths.
How much Biller's groceries cost at Woolworths.
Image: Toni Jaye Singer

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 2/3

TOTAL: 8/10

Note: After querying the lack of sooner available delivery slots, Woolworths responded that the brand had seen a huge increase in the volume of orders due to the third wave and move to level 4 lockdown. “Store staff have also been impacted by Covid-19, causing a lot of disruption in stores, including store closures.”

The brand added that “the majority of stores around the country offer delivery within 1-3 days, but there are a handful of Johannesburg stores which are particularly congested. Our team are working round the clock to try to manage the demand. Our Click and Collect option is often able to help fulfil orders sooner than delivery to door.”

BILLER'S COMMENTS:

  • For someone who prefers to do their own grocery shopping, it was valuable to do it online for the first time. After the experience, I will consider buying my groceries online in the future.
  • The most important lesson that came out of my experience is if you are going to use online grocery delivery services don’t wait until the fridge is empty! The third wave and move to level 4 lockdown have placed added pressures on supermarkets’ delivery services, which can lead to delays in terms of available delivery slots. That said, I now can understand the value of a standard online order of non-essentials: I won’t have to leave the house and it will save time.
  • I went the website route for two of the supermarkets Pick n Pay and Woolworths  as I wasn’t aware they have apps for online grocery shopping, which, having ordered via the Checkers Sixty60 app, demonstrated that this may be a simpler method of ordering groceries online.
  • In terms of payment, be aware that the amount quoted on concluding your online transaction and the final cost that comes off your account once your groceries have been delivered may vary. This is due to the variable cost of fresh items like meat, chicken, cheese, fruit and veg, which are priced by weight. The Checkers Sixty60 service has a “holding fee of R300" to cover the variable prices of fresh items. This is important to consider depending on the limit of your credit card or available funds on your debit card.

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