Multiples raise their game in delivery and substitutions but most fail to please, says Siân Harrington

Food retailers have improved on delivery but their online operations are still being let down by out of stocks and service issues, according to our quarterly online shopping survey.

The autumn shop took place on Thursday, October 16, for delivery two days later on the Saturday and not one of the retailers was able to fulfil The Grocer 33 shopping list.

Asda missed out by delivering Lemon Coke instead of Diet. But lack of paperwork meant our shopper was unable to discover whether this was a mistake at the picking stage or a substitution.

Asda is ramping up its home delivery service but our shopper’s experience was marred by lack of delivery slots and the missing paperwork. Despite placing the order at 8am on a Thursday she could not secure a delivery slot until 6-8pm on Monday - useless if she had required food for the weekend. While her order arrived on time the delivery driver was not helpful and had to return 10 minutes later with the frozen food, which he had left in his van on the first visit.

There was no receipt so our shopper was unable to discover how much her credit card had been charged. She was assured by the driver that it would be posted but it had still not arrived on Thursday - a whole week after the order was placed. Our now annoyed shopper called the helpline and a pleasant assistant told her she had been charged £45.16. She then called the store only to discover the receipt had not been sent out.

Over at Waitrose our shopper found ordering a good experience but Waitrose failed to deliver the potatoes, mince beef and Budweiser that were ordered. Our shopper noted there was a promotion on Budweiser that may have accounted for the lack of availability.

At Iceland the site had a fresh fruit and veg aisle but when our shopper clicked in the only product available was a 2.5kg pack of potatoes. Hence she was not able to order apples, bananas, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, while the Goodfella's pizza was also out of stock.

There was a notable improvement in the quality of substitutions, however. Sainsbury chose Hovis premium white loaf as a replacement for the Hovis square cut and a 500g pack of extra lean beef mince had to be ordered instead of 250g.

Tesco, which delivered mince that was past its display date, substituted Hovis extra thick square cut for the normal square cut and Dr Oetker Speciale Pizza 300g for the Goodfella’s Deep Pan 434g.

Nescafé original was out of stock at Ocado so Black Gold was ordered.

One issue highlighted by our shoppers was the difficulty in finding specific products. Search engines appear to be poor, with our Sainsbury and Iceland shoppers in particular having to search a number of ways before finding the item they required. For example, at Sainsbury a search for Kit Kat directed the shopper to kitchen towels.

Sainsbury still has much work to do on its online shopping service. Previous attempts to order The Grocer 33 list via the Sainsbury site have left much to be desired, with delivery problems, items missing, mistakes with paperwork and technical issues all serving to make it one of the more frustrating experiences.

This time the delivery was correct but the top had come off the Fairy Liquid so it was running everywhere. The mince had a bogof sticker but our shopper was not given an extra pack free, which she would have been able to pick up had she shopped in store.