UK pureplayer Ocado has introduced a new feature that allows shoppers to schedule automatic additions of regularly purchased items to their online shopping baskets. Customers using Ocado Regulars can select products that they want placed into their online basket on a weekly, fortnightly, monthly or two monthly basis.
Basket additions are automatically scheduled on a Monday, allowing shoppers to log in during the week and find their orders pre-populated. Since online checkout is still needed in order to complete the purchase, items can be removed with no obligation to buy. Ocado has teamed up with leading suppliers such as Coca-Cola, Danone, Kimberly-Clark, Pepsi, Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser on this initiative, which spans categories including baby, toilet paper, soft drinks, detergents, dental and snacks
The latest move by Ocado is not a new idea, but its simplicity may make it appealing for regular shoppers. Having to remember all the essential purchases that we make on a weekly or monthly basis such as toilet roll, washing powder and toothpaste can be a hassle and these items are often forgotten by shoppers. By using technology to make the process simpler Ocado is helping its shoppers save time, leaving them free to browse for fresh produce and meal inspiration, which is most likely their main reason for visiting the site.
Autoreplenishment of these items has been the domain of Amazon for some time, with its Subscribe & Save programme and more recently Dash buttons to instantly schedule purchases and add items to our online baskets. And since Amazon is bringing this level of convenience to shoppers, it is a lead that other retailers feel the need to follow. As long ago as 2014, French retailer Auchan trialled a similar programme, allowing shoppers to sign up for items to be automatically delivered on a pre-determined schedule. This scheme was shut down, however, with a low uptake most likely due to the need for shoppers to use a separate website and pay a high delivery fee.
For organised shoppers that are using Ocado’s site anyway this move makes sense in simplifying the online process, particularly in light of the rapid transition to mobile. Retailers are increasingly striving to make the ordering process faster and simpler and this involves providing inspiration, optimising ranges and leveraging data to personalise the experience. In August Ocado also became the first UK grocery retailer to introduce an Amazon Alexa app, which significantly increases convenience for shoppers willing to use voice activated ordering.
To our mind, autoreplenishment remains a current and future trend, even though none of the features to date appear to provide a final solution with longevity. However, they are certainly useful stepping stones, providing a transition to an online grocery experience of the future where retailers will combine technology and data to inspire shoppers and serve them relevant information based on existing knowledge of their individual shopping habits.
In the meantime, this addition should prove useful for Ocado’s regular shoppers and also for suppliers in these often-forgotten categories. Since it shares Ocado’s technology platform, we are likely to see a future introduction of the autoreplenishment feature to Morrisons’ online site too, and it's a lead that other retailers may well follow.