Ocado ordering online

Customers visiting Ocado can expect faster search times

Ocado will roll out ‘smart’ shopping suggestions on its site in two weeks’ time, head of product and merchandising Hannah Gibson has revealed.

The retailer has been testing clickable ‘smart’ suggestions - which are based on a customer’s searches and favourites - behind the scenes and will now trial the initiative live on its site.

For example, a customer who searches for ‘crisps’ with have a number of narrower options to choose from at the top of the page such as ‘Walkers crisps’ and ‘multipack crisps’.

This will speed up search times by allowing customers who have entered too broad a query to select the correct option, rather than refining their search. “Everyone hates typing on mobile so if you can tap rather than type, it’s so much better for the customer,” Gibson said.

There will also be a ‘next, you might like’ option that will suggest subsequent products based on customers’ past preferences.

Gibson said it was vital to make it easy for customers to find the right product - especially in the case of mobile, which can only display a very limited number of products on the screen. “It becomes pretty critical we’re showing the right three items,” she stressed.

“A millennial has an average attention span of six seconds, which is roughly the same as a goldfish,” Gibson added. “So context and relevance are increasingly important.”

Gibson was speaking at the IGD conference in London yesterday.

Ocado has also begun using artificial intelligence to sort customer emails with the aim of speeding up response times.

From this week, the retailer will use software to prioritise communication from its 500,000 active customers before passing it onto contact centre employees.

Workers at the centre will receive a summary of the email and a priority tag, which will save them “spending hours categorising thousands of emails manually”, Ocado said.

The technology is capable of learning and had been trained to sort emails using “millions” of past examples, said Ocado. It said the technology, developed by its in-house technology division with software library TensorFlow and Google Cloud, could can now process thousands of emails per day.

Debbie Wilson, Ocado contact centre operations manager, said this capability would be key to speeding up response times.

“Working in an omnichannel contact centre can be challenging, with the team receiving thousands of contacts each day via telephone, email, webchat, social media and SMS,” she said. “The new software will help the contact centre filter inbound customer contacts faster, enabling a quicker response to our customers which in turn will increase customer satisfaction levels.”