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"What? I can order it ALL online? And delivery is free?" I asked a friend, bemused. I hadn't really been caught up in the online grocery shopping explosion - indeed, I actually thought services like these were only available around London and the big cities. I promptly fired up my web browser and toddled off to www.iceland.co.uk, not expecting my area to be listed.
What a surprise I had when I found my local store delivered to my area. I believe Iceland boast 97% coverage of the UK, and I don't doubt this for one moment.
---- Site ----
The site itself was very friendly. I registered, logged in, and was greeted by an easy to understand user interface. I was still cynical, however, and tried typing a few things into the search box in order to judge exactly what they were willing to deliver. Imagine my surprise when I found they delivered practically everything that was part of my standard fortnightly shopping list!
The whole thing is laid out categorically, and relevant products are easy to find. I can imagine how difficult it is to categories all the groceries a supermarket sells, so they must be commended on this. Everything is where you'd expect it to be, and they've implemented a useful colour scheme along the side - frozen foods in blue, fresh produce in orange, and processed/packaged foods in red. This may not seem like much, but little touches like this really do aid the overall experience. Upon choosing a category, you are shown a further listing of subcategories; for example, "Fry Chips", "Oven Chips" and "Micro Chips" along with a tempting graphic to the right.
The 'terms and conditions' are shown to you immediatly upon logging in, and they're not written in pseudo-lawyer speak, either. "You can place your order 4 days in advance", "You can pay by visa, mastercard..." etc - this saves you the hassle of getting to the till and realising you're unable to pay.
The shopping basket is tucked away at the bottom of the screen, and is unintrusive. It lists the last five items purchased, with the option of viewing the entire basket available. This system works particularly well. The option is also available to hide your basket. The proverbial 'icing on the cake' is the ability to save as many shopping baskets as you need, so you can come back each time you need to shop, and recall all of last weeks groceries. Iceland have put a lot of effort into conveience, and it shows.
All products have a description, and iceland have implemented a symbolic product identification scheme. You can easily see whether foods are microwaveable, healthy, vegetarian, new, or organic, without having to navigate further into the product description. Indeed, you can even do searches specifically for products matching these criteria - I'm sure the organic food buffs will love this.
An outstanding, easy to use site. Simplicity is not something we see often on the web, and I'm glad for its use here.
--------------- Pricing & Range ---------------
There's not much to be said in this section. Basically, the products on offer are linked with your local store - everything which is available there is available online. For example, my local store doesn't have a fresh bread counter, so this option wasn't available on the website. This saves inconvenience later. Generally you can expect a huge range of standard groceries though - choose from five types of noodles, that obscure 'filtered' milk, fresh fruit and vegetables... most people would struggle to find something which wasn't available online in some form or other.
Surprisingly, the prices are identical to those in store. They're probably linked to the same pricing database. Most other online grocers I've tried have sold all their products at recommended retail price, but Iceland retain the same low prices as they have instore.
The most incredible thing about the site is the fact that all of the nationwide special offers are available online. You'll be treated to offers ranging from "Buy One Get One Free", all the way to "Buy a Roast Chicken, and get Roast Potatoes and Carrots Free". This is where the big savings kick in, as other online grocers don't offer this kind of value. Your shopping online will cost exactly the same as what it would cost if you purchased it instore.
-------- Ordering --------
After you've chosen your food, you're greeted with a summary of your order, and the total amount it comes to. You also have the option of saving and categorising it. A nice touch is the 'special instructions' box - its nice to know there's a real person looking at your order, and you're able to leave instructions for the packer or the delivery driver. There's also the option of accepting substitutions in case something isn't available.
Moving on, you are now able to select a delivery time. The times available are all four days or more ahead of the current day, and deliveries are available from 8am to 8pm. This is a real bonus for people who work 9-5, as you can have food delivered when you get home.
Finally, there's the payment options. Credit/Debit card is the only option, and I really can't blame them. I imagine Cash on Delivery would be far too much hassle with hoax orders etc.
One more click, and your order is away! You can resume whatever you were doing, and be thankful for the hours you've saved through not having to go and shop!
------- Service -------
Once again, Iceland excel in this regard. With my first order, I was treated to a phone call from the nice lady who was packing my shopping, and she told me that they didn't have the full 60 cans of coke I'd ordered in stock - I wasn't surprised, to be honest, but I really appreciated the call. She also asked if I was okay with an alternative flavour of pot noodle as they didn't have my favourite flavour in stock. I imagine the stock levels depend on your local store, but its nice that they actually ask you before making decisions.
Taking my first order as an example again, the delivery driver arrived spot on time. He was very cheerful and helpful, and helped me get all my bags into the hallway. I was given my receipt along with a compliments slip and a sheet of paper outlining some of their offers. After moving my shopping to the kitchen, I began to check to see if anything had been missed out, but it hadn't - everything was there, and none of the packaging was smashed in any way (not that I would have minded much). Did I mention the delivery service is free?
One of my worries was about the freshness of things like fruit and vegetables. However all of the fresh produce I had ordered was in date - most with 'best before' dates around a week in advance. If I'd have picked my fruit and veg up from a local supermarket, I'd have been hard pressed to beat the best before dates that I got from Iceland.
---------- Conclusion ----------
Overall Iceland Internet Shopping has been a very enjoyable experience for me. It's hard for me to find time to actually go out and shop, so a service like this is really useful.
A well thought out, easy to navigate site, excellent customer service, and free delivery all add up to form a fantastic overall service which has impressed me no end.
I'm seeing the Iceland Home Delivery vans on the roads more and more these days, and I wish them all success. They have the highest UK-wide internet shopping coverage of all the supermarkets, and they've implemented it better than any other. Its nice to see somebody at the forefront of technology - I believe Iceland were the first supermarket to start the internet shopping craze, and they've used their lead ahead of the competitors well. Well done Iceland!
We are goiong to shop here next. thanks for the op
salman 13.05.2001 05:35
Hi, Chris.First of all an excellant op,secondly I noticed a question in your profile,the answer is simple, you need to write good ops, which after reading this I can see that you are...Then you need to tell people that you exist by reading and rating other ops,not a perfect way, but that's the way it is.All the best.
MichelleScott 13.05.2001 01:46
Excellent review. Comprehensive and really well-written. Happy shopping!