M&S groceries ordered online for the first time via Ocado are being delivered to customers from today. More than 20,000 packets of Percy Pig sweets are among the items included in orders already scheduled for delivery. M&S says the move will be “transformative” for its food line and fits with its ‘never the same again’ strategy introduced during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
In a blogpost, M&S Food managing director Stuart Machin, says that the pandemic has made the Ocado tie-up “more relevant than ever before”, enabling it to grow its food business online, while making its supply chain more efficient.
He said: “Taking our full food range online for the first time is transformative for M&S food and brings to life our strategy to protect the magic, the delicious, quality food and trusted sourcing standards customers love—whilst modernising the rest.
“This is a long-term partnership and in preparation for go-live we have listened intently to customers to deliver an even bigger, better range—with more family pack sizes, more scratch cooking ingredients, household staples and organic options.
“As more families shop for M&S products online, they will see the breadth that M&S food has to offer and we’re confident they will find we remain serious on quality whilst also being serious about value.”
The change, which follows Ocado’s 10 year tie-up with Waitrose, comes after M&S bought a 50% stake in Ocado’s food delivery business, Ocado Retail for £750m in 2019.
Today’s first deliveries mark the results of 12 months detailed preparation between M&S and Ocado, covering areas from the supply chain to website photographs and new product development. Some 750 new products have been developed, including more family pack sizes, and more home baking and cooking ingredients. Machin added: “Going online makes our prices more visible than ever before and whilst we’re not interested in a race to the bottom we are very serious about busting the myths around M&S pricing.”
Ocado Retail chief executive Melanie Smith said: “Today Ocado Retail are bringing the best to your door with the launch of M&S products exclusively on Ocado.com. This marks the culmination of over a year of hard work by everyone involved and I am so proud of everyone at Ocado Retail and our friends at M&S for such a collaborative partnership.
“We are excited to be bringing the greatest range of products to loyal and new customers across the UK with the winning combination of the country’s fastest growing grocer and the nation’s most beloved food brand.
“We know this is the start of something special and as shoppers continue to move online at pace, we look forward to what the future holds.”
Commenting on M&S’ new focus on pricing, Elliott Jacobs, EMEA commerce consulting director at LiveArea, said: “The creation of a ‘value’ line was a clear attempt to undercut competitors. However, it could soon be added to the long list of errors from a brand seemingly always in the midst of restructuring in one shape or another. Rather seeking to pivot, M&S should be looking to invest in strategies we know have value.
“The Ocado partnership takes the brand online, without the usual customer experience headaches. It’s taken an age, but if ever there was a time to go online, it is now. To make the move a success, M&S need to maintain their unique market position, without diluting its high-end offering.”
Meanwhile, Ocado’s erstwhile online partner Waitrose has moved in recent months to expand its own distribution capabilities fast. By the end of December it expects to have four times as many delivery slots in London alone as it did at the beginning of the year.
M&S is ranked Elite retailer in RXUK Top500 research, while Ocado is ranked Top150 and Waitrose Top100.
Our view: M&S is very late to online grocery retailing but today it’s a case of better late than never for a launch that comes thanks to a deal struck more than a year ago. The coronavirus pandemic has demanded that grocers sell online, and while M&S is too late to benefit from the first lockdown it now has a strong capability in place for any second wave. It’s likely to see a strong demand from its existing customers, as well as those that prefer to buy their groceries online.
While Ocado – which already boasts 15% share of online grocery market – brings digital expertise to the partnership, M&S brings its stores. Today it talks of its stores and a renewal programme that aims to highlight the freshness, quality and value of its products. But looking ahead, there’s also potential for Ocado Retail to deliver click and collect orders via those M&S out-of-town stores that have parking, and for customers to order online from the store. There’s rich potential that no doubt the two partners will use to the full.