Traditional retailers seen lacking in web functionality.

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Traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores should work to improve their customers’ online experiences, according to research conducted by ecommerce service provider Fluid.

“Stop designing traditional ecommerce flows,” said Bridget Fahrland, VP of client strategy for Fluid, in a conference call hosted by Wells Fargo to discuss the company’s research. “It looks like [supermarkets] went out and looked at the top Internet retailers, like Amazon.com and Best Buy, and tried to imitate that, rather than trying to create an experience modeled on the way people shop for groceries.”

Food, she noted, needs be presented with strong imagery, informative descriptions and more social interaction with other shoppers, such as through product reviews.

FreshDirect was rated as having the best online user experience.

FreshDirect was rated as having the best online user experience.

In addition, supermarkets need to work on efforts to personalize the experience through things like product recommendations and list building.

“Safeway and AmazonFresh do this to some degree, but there is still room for improvement,” Fahrland said.

Fluid conducted research by shopping at several online grocers to evaluate how they serve their customers, and found that New York-based FreshDirect was rated to provide the best overall user experience. FreshDirect, an online-only grocer that delivers to the New York and Philadelphia metro areas, was rated as having a strong, grocery-centric presentation and high product quality. It was also the only online grocer tested that offered wine recommendations based on purchases, Fahrland pointed out.

FreshDirect beat out Google Shopping Express, which not surprisingly offered strong searching and sorting features, but was considered weak on grocery-centricity. The other sites tested, in order, were Safeway, AmazonFresh, Peapod, Walmart to Go, Harris Teeter, and Whole Shopper, the online offering from Whole Foods Market.

The study concluded that some of the traditional supermarkets — including Safeway and Harris Teeter — have what Fahrland described as an “outdated interface.”

“Safeway surprised us with a higher score than we may have anticipated them getting, although they do need a design overhaul,” Fahrland said.

She praised the Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocer’s omnichannel approach that integrates in-store, online and mobile, however.

“Their multichannel integration with the Club Card is, I think, one of the more powerful multichannel integrations that’s out there today,” she said. “Very few grocery retailers have mastered the integration of in-store and online order history.”

Other sites were hit-and-miss. Walmart to Go was true to its EDLP promise, but its search function was lacking — a search for apples turned up Asian pears as the top product selection, for example, Fahrland noted.

In addition, the company does not have a mobile-optimized site — something that she said will be key for online grocers to be successful.

AmazonFresh, meanwhile, did “a surprisingly poor job” of highlighting the quality of its products on the website, Fahrland noted.

Amazon does have a mobile app with scanning capabilities, which is a plus, and it also offers an option for unattended delivery using dry ice

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