Big Four Grocers Under The Microscope: How Morrisons skipped “tech headaches” through partnerships

Since David Potts took over as chief executive of Morrisons in 2015 he has had a dramatic effect on its performance that has included cutting a clever deal with Ocado, supplying goods to Amazon for its Fresh and Prime services, as well as a wholesale partnership with McColl’s.

However, beyond these two online-related moves there appears to have been very few technology developments undertaken that have made it into the public domain. Essential Retail was informed that any questions relating to its technology activities are regarded as “operational” and would therefore not be answered.

At least the company is benefiting from some of the upsides of patnering with technology leaders Amazon and Ocado and this is filtering through to the functionality of its online proposition.

Daniel Lucht, director at Research Farm, says: “Even though Morrisons initially missed out on developing its own home delivery capability they’ve partnered up [with Ocado and Amazon] and avoided lots of the headaches suffered by the other major grocers.”

Here we take a look at some of Morrisons’ eCommerce innovations which make it easier for customers to purchase their groceries online.

Developing its online store

Simplifying the process of ordering goods online is on the agenda of all the supermarkets and one of the moves by Morrisons is the creation of ‘Regulars’. Simon Mayhew, online retail insight manager at IGD, says it sits on the website and enables regularly ordered goods to be automatically added onto shopping lists once the customer has indicated how frequently they wish to receive the product.

“It takes about three seconds to order these items by stating they are ‘Regular’ and how often they want to receive them. They will then be added automatically onto orders. It’s an extension of favourites that makes the shopping experience more convenient,” he says.

Hooking up with Amazon’s Alexa

Connected devices and personal assistants will play increasing roles in the way people buy and purchase food, according to Mayhew, who says one example is the Unilever-developed ‘Recipedia’ solution that helps reduce waste among other things.

It is a ‘skill’ on Alexa, which is available to Morrisons shoppers because of its partnership with the business. “You simply shout out what is in your fridge and it gives you a recipe that uses those ingredients. This is just one solution that comes to people via connected devices,” he says.

Building a shopping basket though ‘meals’

Most households only have a modest repertoire of meals that are regularly cooked. To simplify the purchase of ingredients for these meals Morrisons customer’s will likely benefit in the future from the development by Ocado of the capability to add ‘meals’ into the online shopping basket. Meals are created by the shopper and include all the necessary ingredients for a particular dish that they cook frequently.

“When the customer adds the meal to the basket all the required ingredients drop into it. It makes ordering goods online so much more efficient. We see the functionality of Ocado [inevitably] goes onto Morrisons shopping site that this solution will also therefore drop through to their,” suggests Mayhew.

For more insight on the grocers' approach to retail technology, read the rest in our series 'Big Four under the microscope':