Study: H-E-B, Publix, Aldi Among Leaders in E-Com Experience

Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor
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Global research firm Ipsos has released the findings of its latest "E-Commerce Experience Report," a mystery shopping study ranking nationwide brands on their fulfillment of online orders for pickup. The study found that many consumers remain drawn to the convenience and speed of contactless e-commerce offerings from grocery chains and restaurants. The third wave of the report demonstrates how grocers and the food and beverage industry continue to make waves in online order fulfillment and which brands emerge as the frontrunners.

The report showed that 78% of Americans have increased their use of in-store and curbside pickup options since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Even as the pandemic wanes, 69% of those surveyed said they expect to continue using e-commerce options at the same levels, if not higher.

“As we continue to see the adoption and usage of digital offerings rise, it is critical for brands to ensure a seamless and safe end-to-end e-commerce experience to keep customers coming back,” said Carlos Aragon, Vice President of Ipsos Channel Performance. “Knowing which brands are leading the pack – and more importantly, why – is critical to succeeding in the e-commerce economy.”

Key Findings
Relying on consumer feedback across 14 grocery chains, Ipsos found the top brands fulfilling online orders through pickup are:

  1. H-E-B leads among all grocery stores largely due to in-stock availability, ability to schedule pickup times, and good instructions on order pickup. Perfect accuracy, no fees or minimums, and excellent communication help them lead the category. 
  2. Publix comes in a close second to H-E-B due to its ease of ordering and superb communication. In addition, Publix excels in order accuracy and contactless handoffs.
  3. Aldi also excels in pickup scheduling flexibility, in-stock availability, and order accuracy and overall satisfaction.

Consumer data around 12 nationwide food and beverage brands determined the following:

  1. Chipotle ranks best of all food & beverage brands. The chain's ordering process is simple and easy to use, but their communication is lacking. Chipotle does better than other F&B brands in terms of having easy to find pickup locations, and nearly all Chipotle pickups were in-store.
  2. Panda Express ranks second among food & beverage brands. As with other brands, the ordering process is easy and Panda’s pickups were split between in-store and drive through.
  3. Like Chipotle, Subway’s ordering process is simple and easy to use. Subway shoppers pickup using a combination of in-store and curbside; in-store pickup is very good, but curbside lost points for lack of guidance and parking.

Key considerations and opportunities for improvement
As e-commerce continues to expand across the industries customers care about most, a few common themes emerged around areas where consumers thought retailers could improve, in both the grocery and restaurant sectors:

  • Ease of ordering: The initial experience of ordering via mobile app or online platform needs to be seamless and intuitive. Ordering portals that were easy to navigate led to higher scores; platforms that weren’t user-friendly raised complaints almost without exception.
  • Communication around pickup: Lack of clarity around how, when, and especially where to pick up an order, was one of the most frequent complaints. Retailers should be conscientious about providing clear, concise instructions for pickups and making sure staff follow them. 
  • Timeliness and accuracy of order fulfillment: These are two of the oldest problems with ordering for pickup, predating even online ordering. Simply put, customers want to be sure they’re getting what they ordered, and they don’t want to wait a long time for their order. 

About the Study

Leveraging results from our Consumer Survey of 2,000 Americans, Ipsos' Drivers Analysis determined which pickup attributes are table stakes, which are key differentiators, and which are unimportant. Then, using data from 100 mystery shops per brand, the agency measured how well major brands across the US are performing on five key performance indicators (KPIs):

  • User experiences of brands’ online and/or mobile ordering platforms

  • Accuracy of orders and standards of product quality

  • How wait times were impacted by order volumes

  • Whether pickup instructions were followed by associates

  • Availability of menu items and inclusion in online orders