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Sainsbury’s has unveiled a few tweaks to its ecommerce store as part of a site replatforming that is aimed at improving its multichannel shopping experience.

The new site has one or two new features, including improved navigation, favourites and more personalised offers.

However the addition that caught my eye is the new ability to add ingredients directly from the recipe pages.

I’m surprised that this functionality didn’t exist before as it seems like an obvious way of improving the user experience and grabbing some incremental sales.

The huge rush to content marketing also makes these recipe pages important for customer acquisition and engagement, so one would assume that they would have been prioritised before now.

Nonetheless, to see whether this recipe feature is a sign that Sainsbury’s is innovating or simply catching up with its competitors, I checked out the websites for the UK’s big four grocery brands plus Waitrose.

And for more information on this topic, read my post looking at whether grocery retailers are catering to mobile customers...

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s recipe section allows you to search for a specific dish, or use filter options to narrow down your search by criteria such as preparation time, type of cuisine and required skill level.

There is also an ‘Ideas & Recipes’ hub page that provides suggestions based on seasons and events.

The recipe pages themselves provide a decent amount of information, but the images are generally quite small which seems like a missed opportunity as food is a very visual product.

But worse is the placement of the ‘Buy ingredients’ call-to-action. The button appears alongside three other tabs that are identical other using than a slightly duller yellow.

It doesn’t exactly jump out at you or create any sense of urgency in the shopper.

On the plus side, the process of adding items to the shopping cart is well-designed as users can click one CTA to add all the required ingredients to their shopping basket.

Similarly, Sainsbury’s has pre-populated the amount of each ingredient required, so users don’t have to refer back to the recipe to see how many kilos of potatoes they need.

This process clearly isn’t as user-friendly as it should be, but then nothing about the Sainsbury’s website is particularly slick or modern.

Tesco

Tesco’s website is slicker than most of it competitors’, but the experience of browsing recipes is rather disjointed.

If you click the ‘Recipes’ tab from within the groceries section of the site then you are directed to a separate subdomain for Tesco ‘Real Food’.

This offers a massive range of food content, such as a meal planner, videos and ideas for cooking with children, however it takes you away from the ecommerce experience. 

Even so, Tesco has clearly put a great deal of thought and effort into its recipe content and offers a more engaging experience than Sainsbury's.

The recipe pages contain larger images and more descriptive information, as well as more prominent sharing and saving options. Recipes tend to have more reviews and comments as well, which is important for driving further engagement and reassuring users that the dishes are worth cooking.

Tesco is clearly in the process of moving to responsive design, though at the moment only selected parts of the site are optimised for mobile.

Most notably the recipe pages are responsive, presumably because these are more likely to be landing pages. However some of the recipes only seem to be optimised for tablet screens, which adds to the disjointed feel of the customer experience.

It’s worth checking out the Tesco Finest hub page, which has an attractive responsive layout involving video, product suggestions and recipes ideas.

Recipes within the Finest range have their own unique layout, which helps to underline the premium quality of the products.

And what of the all-important shopping functionality? Tesco’s recipe pages have a prominent ‘Shop ingredients’ CTA, but again the customer journey is disjointed.

From some of the recipe pages you’re directed to the shopping basket within the same window, while others open up a new browser tab.

Either way, the user is sent back to the Tesco.com grocery store to add the items to their basket, so they are no longer on the recipe subdomain.

On the plus side the items are already pre-selected to be in the right quantities, but Tesco does have some work to do to make the entire experience feel more cohesive.

Waitrose

Waitrose has an excellent range of content, including instructional videos, how-to guides, beginners tips and recipes categorised by ingredients or celebrity chefs.

The recipes pages are also very appealing, offering a zoomable image, nutritional information and user ratings. The instructions are very concise, but they do the trick.

Recipe pages also have a handy ‘Shop for ingredients’ CTA that directs the user to their shopping trolley. However the ingredient quantities aren’t pre-populated, so unwitting shoppers might add a kilo of onions for a recipe that only requires a single one.

In general Waitrose provides a decent user experience for recipe hunters, though it should pre-populate the quantities and potentially offer an easy way of getting back to the recipe pages after once a user has added items to their basket.

Morrisons

Morrisons offers customers a decent range of recipe ideas, but it has no way of allowing users to add the ingredients to a shopping trolley.

This is no great surprise as Morrisons had no ecommerce capability at all before the beginning of this year.

The recipe pages could also do with being upgraded, as they lack the visual impact offered by and Waitrose.

Asda

As with Tesco, Asda has a dedicated recipes subdomain within its website.

It’s not particularly easy to find though, as it’s the last option in a large ‘Groceries’ dropdown menu on the homepage.

Users can either search recipe ideas by ingredient, course or nation, or gain inspiration from some of the content unimaginatively titled ‘Articles’.

Asda’s site is fully responsive and the recipe pages include great imagery and in-depth instructions. On the downside there are no reviews and comments are sparse.

Asda also offers users the ability to directly purchase the recipe ingredients, with the shopping cart appearing as a pop up.

This is a very different approach to that taken by Waitrose and Tesco, as it means that shoppers are able to continue browsing the recipe section rather than being forced back to the ecommerce site.

In conclusion...

Sainsbury’s is clearly some way behind its rivals in terms of its recipe content, with Asda, Tesco and Waitrose all offering a far superior user experience.

Tesco and Waitrose probably stand out in terms of the content on offer, as both have in-depth guides, videos and a huge range of recipes.

However I feel that Asda’s pop up window offers a better user experience when trying to add items to your shopping basket.

But then the design depends on how the retailers believe that people will interact with their content.

Is it likely that shoppers will want to buy items from several different recipe ideas, or will they just find one recipe and be happy to buy those ingredients before completing their usual weekly shop? 

Furthermore, users might prefer to be ushered back towards the ecommerce site rather than be left browsing the recipe content, and this tactic might also improve conversions as it keeps people in shopping mode.

These decisions can only be made based on customer research so it’s not for me to judge, but personally I felt that Asda’s approach was the least obstructive.

David Moth

Published 24 June, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1676 more posts from this author

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