Online retailing has become an increasingly competitive battleground for the major supermarket chains. Indeed, since our Easter shopping survey, Iceland has decided to pull the plug on its home shopping service. This means that there are now just five major online grocery providers.
With the notion of online shopping becoming increasingly the norm, our shoppers are having fewer issues with the technical side of the ordering process.
We asked our shoppers to order the same list as it appears in The Grocer 33 this week. Surprisingly, it was only our Ocado shopper who had any complaints with site navigation. She said that the system was basic and described the search facility as limited.
In June, Ocado picked up The Grocer Gold Award for online retailer of the year. But on this occasion it failed to live up to past glories.
The 4-pint carton of semi-skimmed milk that our shopper ordered failed to arrive with the rest of her shopping, even though she was charged for it on the receipt.
Ocado also failed to provide a reasonable substitution for the bag of standard potatoes that she ordered. She felt that this should not have been too difficult a product to replace.
By contrast Tesco provided our shopper with an exceptionally efficient service.
Our shopper was helped by the fact that he had previous experience of Tesco’s website. He was therefore able to log on in seconds and was familiar with the search facility.
However, Tesco really came into its own with the delivery process. The order arrived bang in the middle of the delivery slot he had requested and contained all 33 items, exactly as he had ordered.
Having set the wheels in motion towards recovery through its stores, Sainsbury appears to have put similar efforts into its online offer.
When we last carried out this survey in April, Sainsbury substituted a total of six items, none of which satisfied our shopper.
This week the retailer was able to match 32 of the products ordered, only missing out on the full order due to an out of stock on celery.
Our shopper was delighted not only with this solid availability but also by the customer service she received.
When ordering bananas and mangoes, both items had a ripeness option which she took advantage of. On delivery, both matched her preferences exactly, which proved that the online picker had selected carefully.
Although the originally selected delivery time of 6pm-8pm would have been fine, the delivery driver phoned ahead and was able to deliver earlier, which suited both parties.
Asda did not perform as strongly as it has done in the past, with particular emphasis on out of stocks and substitutions.
At Easter it won praise from our shopper for delivering more expensive apples and yet charging for the cheaper variety, which were unavailable. These were once again missing, however the retailer chose not to offer an alternative at all on this occasion.
It was also out of stock of McCain hash browns and substituted both Pringles original and Kingsmill crumpets.
The major disappointment for our Waitrose shopper was that many items were closer to best-before date than he would have chosen. Kingsmill crumpets were best before the day they were delivered while some of his apples arrived with bruises.