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Online from the offset, Ocado continues to push the boundaries

Ocado started out in 2002 as an online-only supermarket delivering Waitrose goods. It has since grown to be one of Britain’s leading online retailers, with sales growing by 13% year-on-year and shoppers placing an average of 252,000 orders a week in the first quarter of 2016, according to its annual results published earlier this year. As well as its grocery business which, by the end of 2016, was offering customers 50,000 different products, it operates pet food site Fetch and kitchen goods firm Sizzle. In 2016, it also launched luxury beauty company Fabled, in a joint venture with fashion and beauty magazine Marie Claire.

With so many products to choose from on its Ocado site – the company claims it’s the biggest offering of any UK supermarket – a user-friendly approach and easy navigation have been critical. The grocer advertises and showcases its range through 60 separate ‘shop-in-shop’ facilities, which allow customers to search through themed products and select niche items from a variety of regions and suppliers. The company has also jumped on the fact that most online customers work from the same shopping list from shop to shop, prioritising features such as favourites, imports and promotions tailored to habitual buys. Other offerings include a ‘Low Price Promise’ basket matching scheme and the ‘Ocado Smart Pass’, which gives customers a range of benefits that include free deliveries.

“We strive to be at the forefront of innovation and new developments and have continued to focus on improving functionality and personalisation for our customers to enhance their shopping experience, with features such as customised gifts based on prior shopping habits, calorie-saver suggestions and personalised online coupons,” says chief executive Tim Steiner, in the company’s 2016 annual report published on 8 February this year. “We have introduced additional ‘shop-in-shops’, including our Picard shop specialising in high end frozen food and the Discovery Shop in partnership with the Grocery Accelerator, to help food and drink start-ups trial concepts and get to market, further assisting customers to find more of their requirements in easily and carefully curated areas of our shop.”

The retailer’s latest merchandising innovation is to work with relationship marketing specialist Selligent to develop a relationship marketing platform. This will allow Ocado to deliver personalised marketing campaigns to customers based on their online shopping behaviour. This means that the web content and messages seen by individual customers will be tailored to their specific interests and purchase history. 

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