Having already launched a mobile commerce offering through an app on Nokia's Ovi platform, retail giant Tesco has launched an iPhone version of its grocery app today.
The Ocado iPhone app has already proved to be popular, with 6% of all orders placed via iPhone in April, so you would think the potential for Tesco would be even greater, but how does the app (designed by Ribot) shape up?
It helps if you are already registered with Tesco.com, as you will have to register on the app if not. The registration process has not been optimised for the app, so you have to head for the main website on your phone.
Once there, you have a lot of work to do to fill in more fields than seems strictly necessary. Users would be better advised to register on their laptops or PCs before using the app, to save the pain.
While many people downloading the app will be existing customers with logins, a more streamlined and mobile-friendly registration process would help Tesco attract more new customers through the app.
The main screen provides the option of selecting a delivery slot, checking existing orders, or adding to your shopping list. At the bottom of the app, users can access their favourites, shop for groceries, see the shopping basket, or enter the checkout process.
The Favourites section is a very impressive feature. I often shop at Tesco offline, but haven't registered on the site before, but having entered my clubcard number, the favourites list is auto-filled for me with items I have recently purchased at the store.
This therefore saves a lot of time, and this will become more useful the more people use the app. It also displays special offers for the items in my favourites list.
Search and navigation
One of the challenges for grocery apps is to make browsing through huge product ranges as painless as possible for users. With more than 20,000 products on the app, this isn't easy.
The key is to dice and slice the product range as much as possible by breaking down the categories into more manageable sub-categories, and providing filtering and sorting options to help users narrow their selection.
This works well for some sections of the site; the fruit and vegetables section is quite easy to use for instance, but other product searches are more difficult.
So if I'm looking for red wine, I have a list of 190 bottles displayed in no particular order, with no further options to sort or filter the list. The ability to search by country or by grape would be useful, or at least some options to sort by price. This was also a problem on Ocado's iPhone app.
Users who know exactly which product they want can at least use the site search option, though I think Tesco has missed a trick by not making the search instantly accessible, either by displaying it on each page in the 'shop' section, or having it as a link at the foot of the app.
At the moment, it can only be accessed via the start page in the 'shop' section. This means that, if you are on the wine page above, you have to backtrack three or four steps to use search.
Having selected my products and headed for the checkout, I was surprised to be asked to login again, when I only logged in less than 20 minutes before. This is unnecessary, and very fiddly when you have a long email address.
Once you're over this obstacle, the checkout process is a smooth and well-designed one; as good a mobile checkout process as you will see.
The number of fields to fill in has been kept to a minimum, data entry fields are large enough and clearly labelled throughout, while error messaging is clear.
This is a very useful app from Tesco, and one that should prove popular. The app has some excellent features; a smooth checkout process for one, while the favourites section is very useful for making repeat use of the app as easy as possible.
Some more options for filtering and sorting would make product searches easier, while there are one or two niggles around registration. A barcode scanner would also be a useful edition for a future version of the app, to enable customers to create a shopping list as they go.
Sainsbury's has only recently launched a store locator / Nectar card app and rivals like Asda and Morrisons have no mobile presence at all, so Tesco is well placed to profit as more customers turn to mobile for grocery shopping.