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M&S and Ocado enter first week of online delivery partnership

Customers can now order M&S food through online supermarket Ocado’s website as part of an ongoing partnership between the two retailers

M&S food is now available for online delivery through the Ocado platform as part of a £750m partnership.

In 2019, M&S and Ocado entered a deal by which M&S took a 50% share of Ocado’s UK retail business, with access to the Ocado Smart Platform, and would eventually give customers access to M&S-branded goods when ordering online from Ocado.

Tuesday 1 September 2020 marked the first day M&S online orders were fulfilled by Ocado, after the latter’s online food ordering partnership with luxury supermarket Waitrose expired.

Stuart Machin, managing director of M&S Food, said: “Taking our full food range online for the first time is transformative for M&S Food and brings to life our strategy to protect the magic, the delicious, quality food and trusted sourcing standards customers love – whilst modernising the rest. 

“This is a long-term partnership and in preparation for go-live we have listened intently to customers to deliver an even bigger, better range – with more family pack sizes, more scratch cooking ingredients, household staples and organic options. 

“As more families shop for M&S products online, they will see the breadth that M&S Food has to offer and we’re confident they will find we remain serious on quality whilst also being serious about value.”

Teams at M&S and Ocado have been working together on supply chain logistics and a product database over the past year to ensure customers can order 6,000 food products and 800 other M&S products through the Ocado platform, alongside 50,000 products available through Ocado Retail’s product ranges.

Customer behaviour was already shifting online before the pandemic – it’s expected more than half of customers will shop for food online by 2021 – but the coronavirus outbreak increasingly forced people online as lockdown restrictions prevented them from carrying out day-to-day tasks elsewhere.

While the two retailers claim the Ocado technology platform provides delivery accuracy of more than 97%, there were reports on the first day of the online delivery deal that customers had complained of cancelled orders.

Ocado confirmed this only happened to a small number of orders on the first day of the new delivery partnership, and has since been resolved.

“The M&S launch has been incredibly popular,” an Ocado spokesperson said. “We have seen a surge in demand for M&S products in the run-up to launch, which has impacted a very small number of orders today. The vast majority of customers are unaffected and will be delivered to as normal. We would like to thank our customers for giving M&S such a big welcome and sincere apologies to any customers having to wait a bit longer.”

Customers also took to Twitter to complain of a lack of delivery slots, with many saying they have to wait at least a week or more for an available delivery slot despite being a loyal customer.

Loyal Ocado customers say they have struggled to get a delivery slot

Many retailers have struggled to cope during the coronavirus pandemic, with some struggling with a lack of customers as a result of lockdown and others overwhelmed by an increase in online orders.

At the beginning of the lockdown period, Ocado was forced to pull its website after a huge influx of orders, and upped its technology workers by 300 in the first half of 2020 to cope with increased demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But M&S announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs days before the launch of its joint online shopping venture with Ocado as part of a “streamlining programme”, though it also said it has plans to create jobs later on as it continues to invest in online fulfilment.

Meanwhile, luxury supermarket Waitrose, whose goods are no longer available through the Ocado platform, announced a trial partnership with Deliveroo to allow customers to order and have delivered around 500 Waitrose products through the Deliveroo platform.

This is in addition to its Waitrose Rapid service, which allows customers to order online for home delivery within two hours.

The second day into the partnership, some Waitrose-branded goods were still appearing on the Ocado platform despite them no longer being available, which Ocado claimed on Twitter the brand was trying to fix.

Marks & Spencer admitted in 2018 that its online remit was well behind that of its competitors. It has been trying to ramp up its digital push as a result in recent years, but its partnership with Ocado has ensured customers can now order M&S food for online delivery.

Ocado has always had a reputation of being technologically forward and digitally led, constantly trialling new technologies and aiming to disrupt its own model.

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