05 April 2007

Ocado online food ordering

I recently decided to try a different online supermarket service. I regularly read Which? magazine, which recommended Ocado as being the best in its class. It is part of Waitrose and John Lewis, which Which? also rated as the best shops in the United Kingdom, John Lewis the best overall, and Waitrose the best supermarket.
I went to their website, at www.ocado.com, and registered and placed an order for various foodstuffs. Overall the site was okay to use, nothing special. Some of the prices were slightly more than those at Sainsbury's and Tesco, which I normally use (mostly Sainsbury's), but some prices were the same.
But the main advantage I could see with using Ocado, is that they have no shops. Now, think about that. Why is having no shops an advantage for selling food? Because they have stock, but it is all in warehouses, where the public are not allowed. So they keep a close eye on stock levels, and nothing gets handled or messed around with by customers in a supermarket. Better quality control. And most of the food products are either branded or Waitrose-own brand, which Which? had already rated highly.
The main problems with Sainsbury's and Tesco is not knowing if something will be in stock on the day of delivery. They send out staff to the shop floor to pick the goods a person has ordered, and sometimes things are not available and they pick substitutions instead. But with Ocado, on the website when I ordered, if an item was out of stock it stated so on the website, and there were no options or mentions of substitutions. So I am guessing that it means that when I place an order all the stuff I see as being available I will get in my order, although I should imagine it is harder to be certain of something being in stock if the order is placed too far in advance.
Today the goods were delivered, the driver came a few minutes early (with Sainsbury's and Tesco I have had late deliveries, but also early deliveries), and the driver was very helpful. He even offered to bring everything in for me rather than just handing stuff to me at the door. Both Sainsbury's and Tesco just deliver to the doorstep.
So I can see that Ocado have a different philosophy: they want to give the customer what the customer wants in the best way and without hassle. Quality seems to be the thing they focus on. For an elderly person or someone frail, they would be ideal, as the driver offering to bring things in would be very helpful for such a customer, so long as they could place an order online (maybe with the help of a relative or friend).
So I would recommend Ocado for online shopping here in the UK. I had previously checked out Waitrose, but they do not deliver to where I live (there are no stores nearby) but Ocado deliver to a wider area so it is worth trying if you want to buy food online, as well as other household goods.

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