Waitrose and its parent company, the John Lewis Partnership, rarely put a foot wrong when it comes to their typically middle-class fanbase. But this new site appears to be putting that loyalty to the test: dozens of customers have posted comments on Waitrose’s forums, saying they’ve defected to competitors because of their simpler navigation and speedier loading times.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that customers don’t always respond well to change, particularly on the web (look at the fuss that’s kicked up each time Facebook changes the location of the ‘Like’ button). But some of these customer experiences don’t sound great. One pointed out that after two hours, she still wasn’t sure what she’s ordered. ‘I pasted my list into Tesco’s shopping list and completed the order in less than 15 mins - and 10% cheaper,’ she said. Ouch.
As you’d expect, Waitrose says it’s addressing the issues ‘as a matter of urgency’ – but that may not be urgent enough for those who have already moved on to pastures new.
Still, at least they have a fall-back option in the form of Ocado – which started off as Waitrose’s delivery arm, but is now effectively in competition with it (which may well be why Waitrose instigated the redesign in the first place). By contrast, Ocado’s website gets five-star reviews on consumer sites on a regular basis. So Waitrose customers who are unwilling to stoop to the depths of Tesco or Sainsbury’s (or even – egad – Asda) can always go there instead. It’s the same stuff, after all.
But maybe there’s a lesson for all of us here. As one vexed customer pointed out: ‘The old website had a simple design and no performance issues’. In other words: if it ain’t broke, it might not be the best idea to spend £10m fixing it.