Online groceries: what is the point of hourly delivery slots?
Gareth Williams is Head of SME Business at MetaPack, and has previously worked as an ecommerce manager, a poet and a university lecturer. Today he talks about his experience of supermarket deliveries and broken promises:
In my day job, I work with e-retailers to solve their online delivery challenges, while in my own time I am an avid online consumer. As a generally busy person (in my professional as well as my family life) my natural inclination is to look online for purchases before dragging myself off to a real-life shop. This pattern extends to my weekly grocery routine, and it is specifically my grocery shopping experience of the last few weeks that I would like to share with you.
As a bit of background, I have been using Tesco’s online service for about seven years; until a particularly bad experience last November motivated me try Sainsbury’s, which I’ve been using up to this date – thus giving me a chance to compare the offerings.
Having become well-used to Tesco’s two-hour delivery slots, I was encouraged that Sainsbury’s main differentiator (at the time) was one hour slots. However, every single week since switching to Sainsbury’s I have had a phone call from the designated driver asking me if I was happy to accept the shopping early – apart from one week when they phoned to say they’d be late.
This prompts the question: Can Sainsbury’s really claim to offer one hour slots when they seem incapable of delivering within any given slot? Busy people, by definition, are the main consumers of timed deliveries; and I know from my professional work that, for this group of people, too early is just as bad as too late.
Fortuitously, this weekend has handed me a great opportunity to move the question on a bit: on Saturday (don’t ask why) I placed grocery orders with both Tesco and Sainsbury’s – and I was ecstatic to find that Tesco also now offer one hour slots. Because I imagined it might make things interesting, I selected the same hourly slot from both stores – Sunday 2-3pm. Perfect timing, I calculated, after I had returned from a planned family lunch at the local pub.
Whilst still at the pub (at 12:50pm) I took a call from the Tesco driver. He was parked outside my house. Could he deliver early – he was happy to wait around till I got home? Fine I said. But I didn’t plan on hurrying home on his account. Then at 1:05pm I took a call from the Sainsbury’s driver. Could he deliver early? Yes I said. I’d be about 20 minutes.
And when I got home, there they both were, waiting for me outside my front gate. All my shopping was put away well before the 2-3pm slot I had booked – which was good in one way, but it would have been nice to have got my coat off and sorted out the kids before having to do it.
So what conclusion can possibly be drawn from all this? That hourly slots are an illusion. They don’t exist. The stores probably don’t have the ability to be so accurate, and yet the online grocery giants insist on offering these impossible-to-meet times.
It seems obvious to me that meeting your delivery promise is incredibly important in ecommerce, and yet two of the UK’s largest online success stories appear to have lost sight of this.