Advantages Convenience of home delivery
Disadvantages Inconvenience of a poor site
www.sainsburystoyou.co.uk is Sainsbury’s new online grocery shopping service. Once you have untangled your fingers and actually managed to enter the name of the website into the address bar, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that this is a very user-friendly, no hassle way of avoiding that scourge of scourges - the visit to the supermarket. No more checkout queues; no more screaming children (unless you have your own portable ones to share the experience with you at home); and no life-threatening car park layouts - sounds perfect to me.Registration and Welcome
Needless to say, to take advantage of the many delights that sainsburystoyou has to offer you need to be a registered user. The details that are required are all very straight forward, and the system will quickly check your postcode to identify whether the service is available in your area. You can have a look round as a guest to help you decide whether to subscribe or not, but there is no obligation to buy so you may as well sign-up. A few days after signing-up you are sent a welcome pack, which comprises a letter and certificate of membership number, plus a short leaflet outlining the most frequently asked questions about the website.You are also required to set up a credit card/debit card account that your shopping will be charged to each time you shop. You can change the card details at any time, or you can have more than one card - you select which one you want to use each time you do your shopping.
My main criticism of the page layout would be that there is a significant amount of wasted space, which restricts the number of items that can be displayed on the screen later on. The search area at the top of the screen accounts for about a fifth of the available screen space whereas the right hand side of the screen is blank, and could easily be used for the search engine.UPDATE - 28.04.2002
The site has become even more painfull slow as time has gone on. At times, I found that the main menus would take twenty minutes or more to load. A pilot site was introduced for reasons unknown and subsequently forced users to log in twice - each time being inexorably slow.THIS WAS A KEY FACTOR IN MY DECISION TO ABANDON THE SITE COMPLETELY AND RATHER OVERSHADOWS A LOT OF THE OBSERVATIIONS MADE BELOW
The Store Catalogue
That is not to say, of course, that the product range is limited – there is a massive choice of products available to order. As well as all the foods and household goods, you can also order wines and spirits, cds and videos, books and magazines and a moderate range of electrical goods and children’s clothes. Few other websites can boast the number of different product lines available on sainsburystoyou.The product listings are clearly laid out, in a tabular format, with the description, followed by a field for you to enter the quantity required, and the unit price. There is a plus and minus sign either side of the quantity box, which will enable you to add or subtract an item from your order. Once you have found an item you want you simply set the quantity and then click the "Add to Trolley" link at the foot of the page. As you go through the site adding items to your trolley, a running total is shown at the foot of the page that tells you how many items you have selected so far, and what your running total is. To get a full list of items selected thus far, you can click the "View Trolley" link and see the items in a separate table - from which you may add or subtract items as you wish.
The catalogue contains additional information for certain products, which can be obtained by clicking the information symbol next to the product description. This is not available on all lines, but by clicking this symbol you can obtain a full list of product ingredients, nutritional information, dietary information (e.g. contains nuts), instructions (e.g. serve at room temperature) and the address of the manufacturer. I was extremely impressed with all this - it had never occurred to me until I saw the link that you should be able to see all this online – customers can really make an informed decision about their products by using this information.Items that are on special offer are indicated with a bright red field within the product catalogue, and you can access details of the offer by clicking the £ symbol next to the price. I sometimes find that when I click the £ sign, the message "Special Offer Details Not Set" appears, which is rather irritating, but normally the field expands to show the offer details (e.g. 54p off), and the date the offer ends. A key disadvantage of the special offers online is that, although they are always the same as the store, they are not brought to your attention so readily, and you really only come across them if you browse the catalogues. I would like to see a listing of the current top offers, which would replace the promotional displays that might lure you in at the supermarket.
Locating Your Items
Generally, it is much easier to find products by carrying out a detailed search. The search engine returns results very quickly and is normally very accurate. As with all search engines, the more specific you can be the better, but the key advantage to doing things this way is that if you are looking for a product, but not a brand, then you will be provided with a filtered list of all the different brands. Additionally, there is a drop-down menu that enables a restriction to be placed on the search (e.g. Organic, Taste The Difference, New Lines). This does not enable dietary requirements to be catered for - you cannot restrict the search to vegan, GM free or other such requirements, which would probably be a useful feature for many health-conscious users.Choosing a Delivery Slot
Each time you start a new order you are presented with a calendar of scheduled delivery slots, from which you must select one. You are then given a deadline - a time up to which your slot will be reserved, and before which you must confirm and send an offer. Don’t worry - you are given plenty of time, which means you can start an order, then come back and finish it later on. If the browser crashes, or you log off without confirming your order, then your incomplete order will be saved, and you can access it the next time you log in. There are six two hour delivery windows between 10:00 and 22:00 Monday to Friday; five delivery slots on a Saturday between 10:00 and 20:00 and three slots on a Sunday between 12:00 and 18:00. All orders that I have placed have been delivered within the agreed slot.Special Requirements
One of the things that puts a lot of people off buying their food online is that they have a particular preference for certain items. (e.g. they like ripe bananas). All chilled food is selected with the longest available Use By date, so you don’t have to worry about shelf life, but you are also given the option to specify certain conditions for delicatessen and fresh produce items. Next to the item description you will find a little note pad symbol that you can click - this will then present you with a list of options for that product. So, for example, next to bananas, you click the link and are presented with options to select size and ripeness- similarly you can choose the size of your apples, or the thickness of your slices of ham. I have never tested this facility, as I have no such preferences, but this seems like a nice touch.Checkout
Once you have completed all your shopping, you then proceed to the Checkout function (no queues!) You are prompted to confirm your card and address details, and enter your password and then all you have to do is wait for your shopping to arrive. You are given a unique order number, which you can quote if you need to contact the telephone help line.It is worth noting that at peak times (6-7 p.m.) the site experiences high volumes of traffic so you may not be able to checkout or amend your trolley (the online equivalent of a checkout queue!). I tend to place orders when the site is more quiet, as it can be irritating having to come back and submit your order later on.
Cost and Payment
The normal method of payment is via your credit or debit card. Shoppers who shop online are unable to use vouchers or coupons (for security reasons) and you are also unable to exchange reward vouchers. If you spend enough, you do still receive the money-off petrol vouchers with your receipt.The Delivery
The delivery drivers that I have encountered have all been pleasant and helpful - they normally bring the shopping to the front door, but will bring the shopping further indoors if necessary. The shopping is carefully packed, and of course all the shopping is transported with the appropriate temperature control. When the delivery has been completed, you are given a copy of the till receipt, credit card receipt, and an A4 Sainsburys invoice. The invoice will contain details of any items that have been substituted due to non-availability that you can either accept or give back to the driver. You can write any other problems on a second copy of the invoice, which the driver then takes away and actions as appropriate (e.g. items that arrived damaged). In the event that a product is not of a suitable quality, then you would also use this invoice to return the product the next time you have a delivery. (Whether you can request specific collection of an individual item I have yet to discover).I have never been charged for an item that I did not receive - indeed, quite often I am given a larger size or brand at a lower cost. I have received an item that was packed in error, which I gave back to the driver, and a refund was subsequently processed onto my credit card account.
Email isn’t much better. You can contact the website via an email link (similar to the Contact Us link on Ciao) with freeform text boxes for your queries. When I tested this, I received a response about one day later, but to be honest it would be quicker and easier to use the telephone in most cases. The email reply did not address the question that I had asked. I had requested specific details around a credit that was due to be applied to my account, whereas the response was a generic answer which failed to give me the information that I needed.Terms and Conditions
There are a few terms and conditions that you ought to be aware of, should you decide to use Sainsburys To You:1 Customers have to be 18 years or over due to the ability to purchase alcohol and other age-restricted items.
Other Suggestions for Improvement
Whilst I appreciate the logistical difficulties, it might also be useful to have an “Express Orders” facility, whereby urgent orders could benefit from same day delivery (albeit for a slightly higher delivery fee).Summary
Update - 28.04.2002Sorry Sainsburys - Tesco have you got you beat here. The Tesco web site is infinitely quicker and easier to use and I went over to the other side a long time ago. Sainsbury's biggest mistake has always been trying to run before they can walk. Invest some time in the web site and get it running properly and I might come back. Until then..
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