A comparison of the spanish online supermarkets: analysis of the websites/ estudio comparativo de los supermercados online espanoles. Analisis de contenido de los sitios web.

Author:Martinez-Martinez, Miryam
  1. Introduction

    The first initiatives relating to the utilization of the net arose at the end of the decade of the 60s but, it is in the last years, when it has developed strongly, as an alternative channel, for the marketing product and for the accomplishment of many other economic activities, added to the pure commercial transaction.

    The interactivity of the Internet makes possible a direct access between manufacturers and consumers allowing that the above mentioned demand information and specific services, as well as personalized attention from the company, with unlimited possibilities for the marketing one to one and for the marketing of relations, as Martin Armario and Quero Gervilla (2004) develop.

    In this respect, the Internet transforms the way of trading, but the essence of the marketing remains invariable. Moreover, the Internet provides new tools of marketing to the companies, which facilitate this labor of satisfaction of needs of the consumer, what enphasizes even more the importance of the Information Technologies in the management of the organizations (Gonzalez Sanchez et al., 2006; Roman Nicolas, 2005).

    The food Spanish distribution has not remained foreign to the interest arisen by the new possibilities that the Internet offers in the development of the economic activity. The advances registered in the sector of the technologies of information and communications, have affected of special form in this sector, allowing to execute in real time operations increasingly complex, as well as the stock managed more efficiently, which has encouraged the appearance of establishments different from the traditional stores. Meanwhile, new organizational processes that allow reduce costs have emerged, and there have been developed commercial innovative strategies, with the basic purpose of achieving customer loyalty and to extend the services with major value added (Esteban and Matea, 2003).

    As a consequence, it is important the incorporation of a significant proportion of the most important distributors to this new digital business, from El Corte Ingles and the hypermarkets (Carrefour, Alcampo, Eroski) up to the supermarkets (Caprabo, Condis, Gadisa and Mercadona). There are no click and mortar supermarkets, so far, because in opinion of Lozano Gimenez and Fuentes Martin (2005) users prefer offline known organizations to deal with in the net, as they feel more secure.

    And, though not all these initiatives have reached the initially expected success, it is true that the successes achieved by some distributors have demonstrated the enormous expectations of growth that presents the e-commerce as a distribution channel.

    Nevertheless, the development of the distribution companies in the Internet has not reached the sufficient maturity in Spain yet, with a few sales that represent, around 1% of the incomes.

    The online grocery is not in the first positions among the products most commonly bought through the Internet. According to the information of the AIMC, this category takes the sixteenth position in the list, representing a percentage of 2,6% on the whole of products bought (AIMC, 2006), the studies of the AECE (2005) place it sixth, representing a percentage of 3,8%, whereas, the Comision del Mercado de Telecomunicaciones (CMT, 2005) place it in eleventh position.

    The speed and comfort to carry out the buying, without having to go to the physical store, attacts to those consumers who demand more spare time (Ruiz Mate and Sanz Blas, 2007). Therefore, the profile of the target are young couples with children, both working and having no spare time to realize the grocery shopping or, executives with scanty free time but with the responsibility of buying products of nourishment. In both cases, they are consumers with a medium-high acquisitive level (Mora, 2001).

    The inertia of "expecting and seeing", the absence of a plan of business to undertake projects in Internet, the resistance to changes, the perception of which the consumers have not acquired the necessary maturity in the use of the new technologies, or the dread of that produces a phenomenon of canibalization of the virtual activity on the physical one, are some of the factors that, in opinion of Zorrilla Calvo and Lafuente Ruiz de Sabando (2002) are provoking that the incorporation to the net is taking place in a slower way and late opposite to other sectors.

    In opinion of Fernandez (2001), in the future will not exist clients online or offline, but clients with a major predisposition to buy across a channel or the other one, for what the above mentioned channels must be complementary.

    So, it becomes necessary, not only for the managers of designing and executing the economical strategies, but also for the companies that need to formulate and to adapt its strategies of sale, to analyze and to have information on the development of the electronic commerce in the food Spanish distribution.

  2. Objectives and hypothesis of the investigation

    The present investigation pretends a comparative analysis of the websites belonging to the Spanish virtual supermarkets, including aspects as the possible price differences in the same article, the costs of delivery, the safety granted in the transactions, the available means of payment, if the navigation is friendly or not, etc. With this general objective, the specific ones are those that enumerate later:

  3. Evaluate the degree of attraction of the supermarket's websites.

  4. Detect if the same promotions of sales are carried out in both channels of distribution (online and offline).

  5. Analyze the safety of the website.

  6. Determine the geographical area in which these virtual supermarkets commercialize its products.

  7. Compare, in the virtual establishments, the terms of delivery.

  8. Analyze the services offered to the virtual buyer.

    The hypotheses that sustain the investigation are:

    H1 The virtual supermarkets do not accept the pay in cash as a form of regular payment.

    H2 The level of services offered to the client is homogeneous, in all the supermarkets that sell its products through the Internet.

    H3 The virtual supermarkets offer the same products both in its physical and in its virtual channel.

    H4 The differences in the price of the products offered by the Internet, are significant.

    H5 The delivery of the orders is managed by a system of temporary fringe times.

    H6 The online supermarkets do not apply the same sales that in its physical stores.

  9. Methodology

    The methodology used in the investigation, is based on the method of the observation of the market, more specially, on the accomplishment of an analysis of content.

    The analysis of content is a method that obtains information by means of the systematical observation and quantitative description of the content included in written and/or verbal communications. It can be an object of the analysis of content the messages of advertisements, journalistic articles, websites, programs of television, etc.

    This skill, implies both the systematical analysis and the observation to identify the specific content of the information and other characteristics of the message. Therefore, it involves both the design of a systematical observation and the establishment of a procedure of record and, all this, in order to describe quantitatively the phenomenon observed, in this case, websites of different online supermarkets.

    In this regard, it is useful to remember that " the observation turns into a tool of scientific investigation when it is planned of systematical form to obtain an intention of investigation before formulated. The scientific observation registers information and relates them to formulated well hypotheses, instead of reflecting simply a set of interesting curiosities " (Zikmund, 2003).

    In this investigation, the analysis of content was applied to the different Spanish supermarkets' websites. The investigation took place in November, 2004, when the universe of study was ascending to a whole of seven companies: Condisline E-commerce S.A. (Group Condis), Group Eroski Compra Online (Group Eroski), Gadisline (Group Gadisa), E-Carrefour Espana S.A. (Group Carrefour), Caprabo, Mercadona and El Corte Ingles. In Chart 1 the sheet of the investigation is exposed.

    With such intentions, there were examined both the parameters that help to the buy of products of nourishment in the net, and the formal aspects that characterize the trade in each of them. The considered factors can be grouped in four blocks:

    * Configuration of the offer: offered products, existence of photos of the products, description of the product and accomplishment of the same sales that in the physical world.

    * Offered services: to move along the website without buying, personal lists of buying, customer services, safe sites, track of orders and return of products.

    * Conditions of buy and of payment and territorial area of delivery: minimum buy, way of payment and geographical area of delivery.

    * Terms of delivery: cost and fringe times of delivery.

    For the evaluation of some contents, the navigation for the website turned out to be insufficient, for what it became necessary to contact telephonically with the persons in charge of this activity in the company, in order to obtain or to ratify the information. This was what happened in the analysis of the sales used in the virtual establishments, with regard to those used in the physical world, and in the knowledge of the maximum and minimal times of delivery once carried out the order, because this information was not present in the websites.

    To evaluate if the navigation is friendly or not, different aspects were studied:

    * The existence of a searcher for products and / or brands.

    * The visualization of the ticket while the order is taking place.

    * The possible arrangement of the products: alphabetically, by brands or by price

    * The location of the sales.

    * The existence of a converter euros/ pesetas.

    * The presence of pull down menus.

    * The existence...

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