Grocery Stores Should Pay Attention To Their Online Search Bars

Before the pandemic, we wanted to shop online, but we weren’t comfortable doing that because we are kind of picky shoppers and like to grab stuff ourselves, so we avoided it. When the pandemic started, that changed. We decided we didn’t want to go out to grocery stores and rub shoulders with other people, so we quickly learned how to shop online from grocery stores and now we enjoy it. But, because we search for specific foods, we’ve noticed that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the search bars of almost every grocery store we shop from online.

A Search Bar Finds Products Or Articles Based On Keywords

Search bars work through keywords. At least in my experience.

They look for products with the keywords you type in.

When you type a keyword into YouTube, you get videos based around that word.

When you type a keyword into Amazon, you get product ideas around that keyword.

This is how websites work too. When you type ‘vegan’ into this site’s search bar, you get articles that include the word vegan. That’s because I’ve tagged the article with the keyword vegan.

So, grocery stores should simply have to add keywords – or words related to the product – in order to make their products show up in the search bar for those words.

Save-On-Foods Search Results Suck For Keywords

One place we shop at a lot is Save-On-Foods. They tend to have a lot of plant-based options, and they seem to be willing to bring new things in, so we appreciate that and support them.

Before last week, we had not gone into their store once since March. We solely ordered online for our groceries and depended on their online search to find us new and existing plant-based items.

Here’s the problem. When you type in plant-based cheese, you get this result.

grocery store save on foods

It’s mostly just a result of dairy cheese.

And when you type in vegan cheese, you get the same result as plant-based cheese.

While there are three plant-based items on the list in the screenshot, only one is plant-based cheese, and we know that Save-On-Foods carries a few different plant-based kinds of cheese.

How Can Consumers Find New Products If You Don’t Attach Appropriate Keywords To Them?

What really gets me upset is that Save-On-Foods was carrying a brand of plant-based cheese that I’ve been ordering from another province because, besides at the one vegan Vancouver store, it’s not available in Canada as far as I knew.

The vegan cheese is called Violife, and their cheddar, mozzarella, and smoked provolone are our favorite store-bought plant-based cheeses out there right now. The problem is that we need to pay around $20 shipping to get it to us because it’s quite far away from us and we need it to be delivered quickly.

Last week, my husband went into Save-On-Foods for the first time since March because we needed to fill up a few water bottles. While he was there, he checked out the plant-based cheeses and was shocked to find they had a bunch of Violife options there!

As soon as he told me, I searched Violife in the search bar, and sure enough, it popped up.

grocery store save on foods

Seriously Save-On-Foods?! Violife is obviously a plant-based cheese or vegan cheese, whatever you want to call it. It should pop up in the search engine when you type in those two searches. How do you expect people to discover that you’ve brought in new foods if you don’t include them in relevant searches?

I would never have thought to search for Violife in the search bar because I didn’t think grocery stores in Canada were carrying that brand. If my husband wouldn’t have gone in, I still wouldn’t know they had Violife and I would still be paying the $20 shipping to order from another province when it’s actually available in my town.

Save-On-Foods Isn’t The Only Grocery Store With This Problem

This issue isn’t limited to Save-On-Foods.

For instance, let’s look at Walmart’s vegan cheese list. First off, the search bar doesn’t even believe that I’m trying to look for vegan cheese as it offers ridiculous suggestions – “Do you mean vegan Chinese, vegan cheers, vegan crease?”

vegan cheese grocery store Walmart

Some vegan chips came up and some sort of vegan grilled fruit pizza with cream cheese… wait, that doesn’t sound vegan. Let’s take a closer look at that.

walmart vegan cheese search

Oh, so it’s a pizza and a doormat bath mat. Wait… WTF?

Come on Walmart. Just like Save-On-Foods, you can do better than that. If Amazon can sort their huge selection wtih appropriate keywords, so can you.

I haven’t been inside Walmart for a while, but I know that they have carried a few brands of vegan cheese for a while.

What really burns me is that I did a search on Walmart for Violife and guess what turns up?

Violife Walmart Grocery Store

They also have the Violife cheese! Are you kidding me? They even have the feta style cheese.

Superstore Is Better, But It Could Also Improve Its Search Engine For Online Shopping

Superstore has quite a few vegan products too. President’s Choice actually goes out of its way to make some special PC labeled vegan items.

Superstore’s search engine for online shopping is pretty decent. For instance, searching for vegan cheese gets me results of vegan cheese!

Vegan Cheese Superstore Grocery Store

There are some tempeh and sweet potato burgers in the results too, but for the most part vegan cheese is listed on the first page.

Why Is This Labeled As Vegan?

There is also some lactose-free sour cream on the first page of the results for vegan cheese, which is not vegan. This is another problem with grocery store search bars.

vegan cheese superstore grocery store lactose free

This is not only annoying to me, it’s a problem for people who don’t understand what vegan entails but want to cook for their vegan friends or family.

My friend once told me that she made fondue with vegan cheese and she was surprised that her kids and she liked it so much.

I was skeptical.

When she showed me the product, I realized it was just a lactose-free cheese, not a vegan cheese. She assured me it was vegan because the grocery store had it by the vegan cheeses. Despite me being an actual vegan who knows what food I can eat and showing her that milk was an ingredient in the cheese, she didn’t believe that it wasn’t vegan because the grocery store had made her think it was.

I’m not saying that grocery stores need to help their online shoppers understand the difference between certain diets, but at least list things for the search engine properly so that people searching for products can find what they need.

I Think Every Grocery Store Should Pay More Attention To Their Online Search Bars

I’m assuming grocery stores have people who work on their websites. These people must update the site, add items, delete them, change prices, add descriptions, show specials, etc.

Please, grocery store website people, help us customers find new and related products to the terms we care about. Dairy-free is a good, common term, and it seems to be included in many grocery store search enginges, but vegan and plant-based are equally as popular, especially for people who eat plant-based food.

When I type dairy-free, plant-based, and vegan into my keyword tool, you can see that dairy-free doesn’t even make it in the top 10 most searched… vegan tends to be the main word used.

keywords vegan dairy free

So include words like plant-based and vegan in your plant-based and vegan products, and people like me (and people who are new to being vegan and want to see what you have for them in your grocery stores) can find what we are looking for and buy it from you.

It benefits us both. You get more loyal customers and make more money and we don’t have to pay for shipping for products our local grocery store already has.

But, until these grocery store search enginges get fixed, I’ve learned to be very specific in my searches. If there is a product I want, I search for it by name… and, sometimes that doesn’t even turn up the results I want.

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