Shop ‘Till They Drop A

Ocado Home PageA new home shopping service has opened for business. Ocado is in partnership with Waitrose, and its motto appears to be the rather bland and vague statement “Supermarket shopping, the way it should be”.

Ocado (strange name) obviously wants some of Tesco’s market, and is promoting the following benefits:

  • Fresh Waitrose goods (Waitrose is generally considered to offer the highest quality of Britain’s supermarkets);
  • Free delivery for orders of £75 or more;
  • and rather pointedly, “A service that can actually deliver what you order”.

This last offering is a not so thinly veiled criticism of Tesco’s service, which was known at one point for frequently omitting products ordered by its customers.

Ocado has come up with some good ideas to get the business going:

  • You can telephone their support helpline to be guided through the site;
  • You can make an appointment for a member of their staff to visit you at home and help you with your first order;
  • Or you can send them the receipt from your last shopping trip, and they will call you when they’ve opened an account for you and setup your shopping list online.

They’re also offering £10 off each of your first five orders over £75, but this last incentive is not as good as it seems. The five orders must all be completed within eight weeks of placing your first order, and this limitation makes me think that Ocado has misunderstood, or has chosen to ignore, how online shopping changes the way people shop.

Home delivery services are best suited to bulk purchases of non-perishable products, which is how I’ve used them since 1997. They don’t really work for fresh produce, which is still better if purchased as and when you need it. So, I use Tesco’s service to buy large quantities of standard products once every two months. There’s absolutely no way you need to buy groceries every week using these services, not unless you’re feeding a small army. I would be lucky to order twice during Ocado’s discount period, and so it’s not much of an incentive after all.

My verdict to date? Ocado has a tasteful web site (no pun intended), but it’s not yet as useful or flexible as Tesco’s well established online service.