While Ocado continues to outperform the rest of the market and Waitrose offered a very good service, Sainsbury, Asda and Iceland have yet again proved to be unable to deliver a half-decent experience, while Tesco has niggles. Difficulties in ordering, failure to deliver on time and poor fulfilment of the list are still hampering their online services.
Our shoppers were briefed to order The Grocer 33 list on Monday, April 14, for delivery on Thursday, April 17, in time for Easter.
From the start, the Sainsbury and Iceland shoppers had problems.
There was a technical problem with the Sainsbury site, and our shopper was unable to access the site on Monday in spite of four attempts (see panel right). In the end he gave up and waited until the next day, when he was successful. Nevertheless, Sainsbury managed to deliver 31 of the 33 items from the list, at a cost of £32.33 (a figure which is adjusted to account for the correct list weight of loose produce rather than the delivered weight, see table below).
Our Iceland customer was shopping online for the first time, although she is experienced with computers. She had no problem logging on but downloading the pages proved difficult. She blamed her "antiquated Mac" which failed to respond to any searches.
After two hours she called the technical helpdesk but, despite their prompt response, the directions were too complicated and tailored to a PC. She turned to her husband's new PC with broadband connection and the process was quick and hassle-free.
She was impressed by signposting and shortcuts but thought the simplicity of the site was too minimal for products. The limited range on offer also meant a number of products were unavailable in the weight requested and a couple of brands were not stocked. Hovis wholemeal was not listed on the site so our shopper opted for Allinsons bread at 74p. Neither were large eggs, so medium were added to the list at 54p. Our shopper chose a 16-pack of Birds Eye fish fingers at £2.24 because the 10-pack was not listed. Likewise for Persil, taking a 16-tablet box for £2.39 instead of the 12-pack. McCain Home Fries were stocked in a weight of 2.25g and cost £2.39.
Three items were also substituted by Iceland. However, the chain did call to check it would be OK to swap the fresh mince for frozen. The chain also substituted a 1kg pack of Corn Flakes for £1.79 for the 750g pack, and a 750g of salad potatoes at 74p for new potatoes.
Our shopper was impressed by the site's design but said that, under normal circumstances, the technical difficulties and delivery time would have made her go elsewhere.
Delivery was a big disappointment. The company could deliver only in one two-hour slot once a week (a Tuesday). By ordering on the Monday she had to wait until the following Tuesday (eight days) for the first slot. It arrived an hour early at 5pm. The frozen goods were still frozen and so too were the fresh bananas, which had been packed with them.
Asda again had a well-designed site,but that is where customer satisfaction stopped.
The delivery arrived 20 minutes late and 13 items listed on the receipt were missing, while the ordered Jonogold apples were not in stock and no suitable substitution could be found. A pack of 16 Birds Eye cod fish fingers had been substituted, as had barn eggs.
Our shopper called the queries line on the driver's advice and was told the rest of the order would arrive the next day. There was no call to confirm this, so the shopper rang again and finally the rest of the shop appeared. Nescafé, Tetley tea bags and bananas were still missing, as well as the apples, while Heinz beans were substituted for own label.
It has transpired that the Thursday driver had wrongly called our shopper's work number just after his delivery to say he'd found the missing items in the van and could return.
There has been no apology and the original £36.20 bill plus delivery charge has been debited from our shopper's credit card.
Our Tesco shopper said ordering was much easier than at Sainsbury, which she had tried before. Delivery was good, arriving early by prior arrangement with the friendly driver.
However, even Tesco is having fulfilment problems. The cheese was missing and our shopper found herself the proud owner of crème fraiche and Tesco Butter-me-up, neither of which she ordered. She also only received 0.15kg of mushrooms at 36p, despite her email confirmation of 454g at £1.02, while a 750g pack of Corn Flakes was delivered rather than 500g. A 750g pack of washed new potatoes was substituted for 454g of loose potatoes ordered.
Our shopper compounded the problems by inadvertently choosing Value beans as it was the only one she saw when asking for own label beans.
Both Ocado and Waitrosedeliver were praised, with Ocado's shopper saying he would definitely use the service again. His order turned up on time, with polite deliverymen. The receipt was clear and Ocado was the only retailer to deliver all 33 items.
Our shopper called the hotline when he found packaging on the McCain Home Fries torn and received an apology and undertaking to credit his card.
Waitrosedeliver was easy to log on to, allowed the shopper to order weights by the imperial lb and flagged up the lowest price in each category with a blue £ logo. It took a long time to complete ­ the system is slow because each product is illustrated. Tetley tea bags were only offered in 80s while the mince was restricted to a 500g pack, so they were not ordered by our shopper.
He was unaware that the minimum order was £50 until he reached the checkout and so extra items had to be added to the list.
However, delivery was at the stroke of 6pm, complete with all 31 items that were ordered.