I’m not a very loyal shopper when it comes to supermarkets. I have some specific needs and I’ll be as fickle as possible to whichever shop – total sucker for convenience! Which means, I love Ocado. I’ve been shopping with them for a couple of years and haven’t really considered switching online supermarket. Why do I like it so much? Well, they have great variety, and a great range. I suppose these are some of the perks of not having to deal with physical stores. I’ve never had poor quality vegetables (well, not really) and they have a great loyalty scheme and are always offering me discounts and free stuff, which is a nice bonus. It’s also all really easy to redeem, a lot of it is added to my account or basket without me having to do anything (they have this interesting Smart Pass for free delivery and other perks).

Except vouchers. I get sent a cashback code by email for any items that could have been cheaper at a different supermarket. It’s a great feature but they need to sort that out so that it’s automatic. But the main reason is because when things go wrong, which of course they do, sometimes… Ocado always fix it. It’s definitely these moments of truth that builds your love and trust for a brand – and that’s exactly what they’ve done with me.

Discovering new ways in which companies are attempting to be helpful to me and personalising my experience by using my data is one of my favourite past times, and Ocado has some interesting features. Firstly, they have a number of dynamic panels that pop up when you do various things. The one below shows the ability to drill down into your choice – in this example you can choose to narrow your sear to wholemeal wraps etc. Additionally, it’ll show you other frequently bought items such as beef stock cubes with your kidney beans and so on. Seems pretty useful.


Secondly, and one of the more surprising ones was when they suggested some substitutes based on calorie count during checkout. I’d put some tonic water cans and some pots of risotto in my trolley and within the ‘before you go’ step of the check out it has suggested a slimline alternative. It says by choosing their suggested alternatives I could apparently save 576 calories which is equivalent to an 188 minute walk and 59 minute run. To my knowledge, I’ve not told Ocado that I’m dieting or watching what I eat or calorie counting etc. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think converting it into actual activity and not just talking about calories themselves is more compelling. I think it works better for single meals as well, so, in this example it worked better for the risotto than the cans. I’m not going to drink all of the cans in one sitting so I’m able to explain away the extra calories.

I did a mini survey around the office and the views were a pretty even 50:50 split – with some people calling it judgmental and others saying it’s good for the supermarket to promote healthy choices. We then had a debate on whether it should be an opt in or opt out solution. Does it make much difference to the supermarket? They’re not actually going to make more money by me switching to healthier choices in this instance. Does this mean they would be more likely to offer a healthier choice if it was more expensive? Or less likely to offer one if they were going to make a loss? There are clearly some decisions of an ethical nature that need to be made here.

So did I change my choices? No. Maybe it was in defiance, I’m not sure. Sometimes I don’t like the idea of a machine telling me what it thinks I should do – perhaps this is going to be one of the biggest problems that AI will now face. There is going to need to be greater research into different ways of talking to customers – with persuasive design at the forefront. Perhaps I was part of an A/B test experiment… I haven’t seen it since… Maybe that’s a sign of how well it’s doing or how well it’s been received by customers!