THE WEB ASSESSMENT STUDY OF THE SWISS AND AUSTRALIAN GROCERY SECTOR

By | February 9, 2018

The participants in this study were students enrolled in electronic commerce classes at the Uni- versity of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Applied Sciences in Basel, Switzerland, in the years 2003 and 2002 respectively. In Australia, each Web site to be evaluated was assigned to four tutorial classes. A tutorial class consisted of 20 students on average. In Switzerland, there was only one class of 25 students, where each student evaluated all four Web sites. Although the participation was voluntary, the students were encouraged to perform the evaluation, since the participation meant extra practice in preparation for a subsequent assignment. The number of responses for the Web sites varied from 5 to 56. Although for a few Web sites the number of participants was quite low, a subsequent qualitative evaluation by the authors revealed the plausi- bility and usefulness of the results.

In Australia, six operational Web sites were identified at the beginning of this study and all were included in this study. Two of the Web sites belong to the two major Australian retailers (Coles and Woolworths), while the other four are pure online players without physical stores. At present, Woolworths offer the online grocery shopping service to approximately 200 suburbs in Sydney, under the name ‘Woolworths (Safeway) HomeShop.’ Coles supermarkets offer the online service to consumers in 25 suburbs in Melbourne and 41 in Sydney under the banner ‘Colesonline’ (Colesonline 2003). The online retailers, including ShopFast, Groceries4U, AussieShopper, and GreenGrocer, have been established to serve more specific regions of Australia. ShopFast, for example, delivers to Sydney, Central Coast, and Wollongong, while AussieShopper focuses on the Brisbane area, GreenGrocer operates in both Sydney and Melbourne, and Groceries4U serves consumers in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

The Swiss study included the two large Swiss retailers (Coop and Migros), the shop of the Spar-Group Switzerland, and the shop of a Swiss grocery group called Bon appétit Groupe AG (LeShop). Coop, Migros, and Spar operate a close-meshed grid of physical stores and offer online shopping as an additional customer service. In contrast, LeShop is a pure online player and was the first company offering grocery products online in Switzerland. Since spring of 2002, when data were collected for the Swiss grocery stores, the Swiss online market has seen some important changes. First, Spar shut down its online shop in August 2002 for a lack of demand, while LeShop was sold to private investors at the end of 2002. Then, at the beginning of 2004, LeShop almost had to shut down its operations but was rescued by a group of investors. A couple of months later,

 

 

Table 10.1

 

The Importance of Each Category Used in the Study

 

Importance Grocery (Range: –2/+2)

Phase/Component Australia Switzerland
1. Information Phase 0.97 0.84
2. Agreement Phase 1.44 1.50
3. Settlement Phase 0.99 0.59
4. After-Sales Phase 1.02 1.38
5. Community Component –0.44 –0.88
6. Final Section 1.23 1.13

 

LeShop and Migros merged into one joint online store, which at the time of writing this chapter was run by the former LeShop crew.

For the evaluation of the Web sites, the students used the EWAM tool, as described in the previous section. Before the evaluation process started, the students were thoroughly instructed in the use of the tool. The training of the assessors is an important learning process that confronts them with the basics of high-quality e-commerce services. Data were submitted by the students online and analyzed centrally by the authors. For each Web site, a personal Web assessment report was produced. Specific sector assessments compare companies in the same sector against one another.

 

IMPORTANCE RATINGS

 

In this section, we first examine the importance of categories for the grocery sector as rated by the participants in Australia and Switzerland (Table 10.1). Six Web sites for the grocery sector were assessed in Australia and four in Switzerland. Details of these sites are provided in the next sub- section. The rating is based on a four-point scale: from unimportant (–2) to very important (+2). The results show that the perceived importance of criteria for both countries is very similar and that all phases except for the community component were perceived to be important. A closer look at the results reveals that the accessibility of the Web site, structure of the contents, quality of information, and price benefits are important criteria which the participants emphasized for the information phase. Other items, including ordering procedure, tracking and tracing, and access to customer support, were found to be crucial in the agreement, settlement and after-sales phases, respectively. In addition, the availability of the system, the design of the user interface, and the

trustworthiness were also cited as important by most participants.

The above findings suggest that customers or users in general have a high quality expectation toward the Web sites in the grocery sector. The main reason might be the novelty of buying groceries online which results into a perceived uncertainty that is still high (Barnett and Alexander 2003; Kinsey and Senauer 1996; Slonae 2000). Consumers are very sensitive to ordering grocer- ies online, since there is a high chance of not getting the grocery items in the expected quality, especially for perishable products such as fruit and vegetables (Barnett and Alexander 2003). This is consistent with the findings of previous studies exploring the slow uptake in online gro- cery shopping adoption in a number of regions (Schuster and Sporn 1998; Kutz 1998; Kurnia and Chen 2003, Kurnia 2003). Consequently, items such as trustworthiness were rated paramount and significantly more important than, for example, in a different study of the book retail indus- try. A number of online grocers, however, believe that with their training qualification and in-

 

Summary of the Overall Web Evaluation (Australia)

 

frastructure (such as refrigerated delivery truck) they are better at picking and transporting products than customers (MSNBC 2004). Therefore, with an improved trust level of con- sumers, the number of consumers who are willing to purchase groceries online can be ex- pected  to increase.

Furthermore, the agreement phase is perceived to be more important in the grocery than in other sectors, with the order procedure being especially important. Grocery shopping in- volves searching and selecting a comparatively large number of products. A smart and easy- to-use order procedure that supports the customer in making selections and filling the shopping cart is thus crucial for a satisfactory shopping experience. On the other hand, our study shows that the availability of recommendation systems is more important for other than grocery items, which is not surprising, given that groceries are everyday items with a rather stable need. In the same way, the community component is perceived to be not so important for the grocery sector.

 

Figure 10.2 depicts the summary of the overall evaluation of the six Web sites. The score is based on a four-point scale from –2: very bad to +2: very good. As shown in the figure, Colesonline appears to be the best site in the sector, whereas Groceries4U Web site has the worst evaluation result. Other Web sites require significant improvements in order to achieve a quality comparable to that of Colesonline, which is the best-practice Web site in this sector.

Figure 10.3 summarizes the company profile for all Web sites evaluated in this study, indicat- ing the score obtained in each phase. It shows that the best-practice company was rated much higher than other companies in most of the categories involved in this study, particularly in the agreement phase, after-sales phase, and the final section. The performance of other sites evalu-

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