The Grocer 33's latest online shopping survey has painted a dismal picture of the five major online retailers' operations - just five weeks ahead of Christmas.
No retailer was able to provide all 33 items exactly as ordered, and the vast majority of deliveries came with an array of expensive substitutions.
Sainsbury's.co.uk was the worst for substitutions with four, followed by WaitroseDeliver with three, Tesco with two and Asda with one. Ocado was out of stock of one line and offered no substitute.
Accuracy was another concern. Both Asda.com and WaitroseDeliver delivered items not on the list - and WaitroseDeliver charged for the item. In terms of timing, Ocado was the worst performer. Its delivery arrived 40 minutes early when our mystery shopper was out.
The findings are bad news for the online industry, warned Tim Denison, a member of the KPMG/SPSL Retail Think Tank, which this week published an analysis of internet retailing. "Despite the acceptance of internet retailing as a mainstream channel, the fundamentals of retailing remain unchanged. The technology aspect comes behind getting the traditional retailing basics right.
"People expect to receive the same or higher levels of service that they receive in store. That's not occurring."
There is also room for improvement in plastic bag use. While the multiples are slashing usage and promoting recycling in store, our survey revealed the issue is not being given as much attention in online ops.
Sainsbury's.co.uk was the worst performer, using 14 plastic bags for 33 items.
The necessity to separate fresh, frozen and household goods could sometimes make cutting bag usage problematic, said a spokeswoman, who conceded there was an "opportunity for online teams to challenge the number used".
She also said Sainsbury's online drivers would collect used bags for recycling, though our shopper was not informed of this.
Asda used 12 bags, while WaitroseDeliver used 10. The Ocado goods were delivered in seven bags, with no sign of the paper bags it has been trialling (The Grocer, 7 October, p12).
Tesco put in the most impressive performance using just six bags. "Tesco has a target of cutting carrier bag usage by 25% in the next two years," said Laura Wade-Gery, chief executive of Tesco.com. "We are already using thinner bags, and we have trials under way in which we're delivering without bags, using reusable tray liners."
Tesco made £948m in home shopping sales last year but is believed to have already surpassed £1bn this financial year according to IGD, and is the only retailer to make online shopping profitable so far.
Sainsbury's and Asda are joint second in the market with £220m, ahead of Ocado at £152m.