In our first-ever mobile shopping Grocer 33 - in which mystery shoppers used an iPhone to order their groceries - it took just 18 minutes for our shopper to place the winning order on Ocado’s app, as items were found in “seconds”. But it wasn’t just the speed that impressed. Registration was “very straightforward”; presentation and navigation was “inviting” and “completely logical”; promotions were well flagged; and highly detailed product descriptions were “excellent”. The Ocado app was also the only one not to freeze. As a result, Ocado’s app scored full marks.

Star order: Ocado

Name: Lawrence Hene
Job: Director of marketing and grocery retail

We’ve had a mobile app for four years and we’re continuously working to improve it. We had a major relaunch at the end of last year which improved the navigation, made the basket more visible and worked better on tablets. Last month we also added a search suggestion function.

Unlike other apps, on ours the catalogue is stored on the phone so it is quicker and you can shop offine. For a lot of customers the app replaces the website so it has to have the same functionality. More than 30% of our sales are through the app - split equally between tablets and smartphones - and it goes up every month.

Tesco came second overall, as it outperformed closest rival Asda on the delivery side, using the fewest bags - averaging a reasonable six or seven
items per bag - though its delivery charge was the highest. But its app suffered by comparison with both Ocado’s and Asda’s. It was “easy to use”, with the facility to browse before signing up, but the shopper could not fill the basket until an account had been created; there wasn’t a running cost total; product descriptions “weren’t very detailed”; and the app froze, although all the products remained in the basket.

Asda’s app worked better. Making the most of the iPhone’s voice recognition technology, our shopper was able to say product names rather than
type them out. When the app froze, items were remembered and at the end of the shop they were added to a favourites list. Unfortunately, Asda’s driver didn’t offer to bring the shopping into the house and the second-highest number of bags were used.

Our Sainsbury’s shop started well - registration was easy but when you browsed products and clicked on them for more information, the picture disappeared. Our mystery shopper also said if items were added too quickly they didn’t appear in the basket. And the app crashed at the final stage so she couldn’t complete the order - as a result she spent almost 30 minutes on the phone to customer services sorting it out (on an 0800
number from a mobile, which is chargeable).

Waitrose was last. Its app was simply a library of recipes where you can add products to a ‘virtual’ shopping list - with no link to a shop. So our mystery shopper was forced to use the mobile version of the website instead. It took nearly two hours to place the order, as it proved hard to navigate, and registration was “confusing” (taking more than two goes). The website also froze on more than one occasion and checkout took a
further 30 minutes. On delivery, the driver didn’t even offer to take the shopping in.

App performance: what our mystery shopper said

Asda app


“Speaking into the phone made it quicker than typing, but this function wasn’t properly flagged up. I thought the date on the lamb - only one day - was too short.

Sainsbury's Mobile Scan and Go app


“After it went wrong I called customer service and was on hold for 27 minutes! Not a pleasant experience and I won’t be using it again in a hurry.”

Tesco app


“It went some way to making ordering as easy as some online shopping sites, although the small screen and limited control did make it a bit fiddly to operate.”

Waitrose app


“Accessing the website through my iPhone, I was so stressed! It took a long time to calm down and I was left feeling stupid - I never want to do it again.”

Ocado app


“The app was so detailed and so easy to navigate ordering each item took seconds. I had no frustration at all! I would definitely use it again.”

See also: Grocer 33