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Tesco's E-commerce Website

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E-commerce is a major development, which is changing the relationship between business and consumer. Tesco's Chief Executive, Terry Leary (2001) said, "We have developed the best online grocery shopping system in the world". The website takes 70,000 orders per week and annual sales run at a rate of 300m.

The website is changing the purchasing habits of its participating shoppers. No longer do consumers have to physically visit the supermarket to purchase their groceries. Purchasing goods online has its limitations such as being unable to touch, feel, smell and taste products. Tesco recognises that it still has "much to learn about Internet shopping and home delivery and that the service levels and interactions that take place are a long way from their potential (De Kare-Silver, 2000 p39). However, the website does offer the convenience of shopping from home. This is a major shift in the way people conduct their grocery shopping.

Because e-commerce is relatively new, it has yet to permeate into the consumer psyche and earn the trust and confidence that is associated with other traditional forms of commerce. A report published by Consumers International (2001), the global federation of 263 consumer organisations found some "disturbing inadequacies in the online shopping experience" relating to the quality of ordered goods upon arrival and quality of service regarding refunds after it placed orders with online stores around the world.

Another major investigation by the CI concerned consumer privacy. A press release dated 25 January 2001, summarising the report stated, "existing measures put in place by various governments to protect people's privacy is not adequate". Relations could be significantly altered when the consumer first experiments with online shopping. If the transaction is carried out quickly and efficiently and a good level of service is provided, then the consumer should be left feeling satisfied and possibly willing to make repeat purchases. However, if a poor level of service was experienced first time, such as groceries arriving damaged or missing, as highlighted in the CI report, then the consumer is likely to feel disgruntled with the new technological service and may be discouraged from trusting other e-commerce sites.

With reports like these brought to the attention of the public, it is crucial that a store such as Tesco provides a service that will seek to re-address the concerns of customer confidence in e-commerce.

Tesco have focused on website usability issues to create a site that is user-friendly and simple to navigate. Nielsen (2000, p 86) states that, "navigation doesn't work with frames because the unit of navigation is different from the unit of view" and explains the problems relating to book marking pages with frames. Tesco however have placed their navigational links in separate frames so they remain permanently visible whilst scrolling around the main text area. This technique enables the reader to conceptualise where they are in the site at any one time. The site simplifies browsing by categorising products into separate sections. Shoppers are able to browse the virtual store, adding products to their virtual shopping baskets and proceeding to the checkout to pay by debit/credit card.

Pastore (2001 a) states that, "convenience-related issues (including speed of use and ease of access) are the dominant motivating factors among respondents who purchase online." In an attempt to increase convenience for the consumer, Tesco have incorporated into their website a feature which allows shoppers to create an electronic shopping list that can be saved and recalled at a later date. Customers are thus spared the inconvenience of selecting the same items every week. "According to research by GartnerG2, 81 per cent of online consumers value convenience when making a purchase online compared with 33 per cent who value price savings" (Pastore, 2001 a).

Next day delivery is promised when ordering online and the opportunity to order goods up to 28 days in advance is also available. The innovation shown by Tesco has led to the belief that it will establish itself "in the customer's eyes as being the leading edge exponent" (De Kare-Silver, 2000 p40).

Tesco boast they are the only grocery retailer to offer global job opportunities on its website. The careers site is one of many which are helping to change the way in which people search for and apply to jobs by offering an online recruitment process. Tesco believes its careers website will be able to entice its "silver surfers" back to work. These are people over the age of 50 who are willing and able to work (Tesco, 2001).

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