Online grocery retailer Ocado has just launched an iPhone app for customers to create shopping lists and order groceries, which makes it the first online supermarket to move into mobile commerce.
I've been trying out the 'Ocado on the Go' app...
The app is intended for users that already have accounts on the main Ocado website, so if you haven't already got an account, you'll need to register before using it.
Once this has been done, the homepage is nice and simple, and you have the option of booking a delivery slot, checking existing orders, or browsing and adding items to your basket.
One of the useful things about the app is that, once you have downloaded the catalogue of 18,000 products, you can add items to your shopping list even when offline, meaning you can make effective use of spare time to get your shopping out of the way.
To start shopping, you can either browse by category, search for products by keyword, or if you have used the site before, you can access lists of products you buy often, as well as recommendations, which should speed the process up.
With so many products to look through, browsing could be a long task, so it's helpful that Ocado has broken down the categories into more manageable sub-categories, though in some cases, more filtering and sorting options would help.
For example, if you are looking for a loaf of bread, you can select food/bakery/bread/bread loaves, but then you still have 105 to scroll through.
It's the same with wine; you can narrow it down to red, but there are 294 bottles to look through, a list which takes time to load. Providing users with options to search by country, type of grape, price range etc would make the shopping experience much better for users.
Aside from the need for more product filtering and sorting, the app works well, and updating your basket and selecting delivery slots is nice and easy:
One problem with a few of the mobile commerce sites/apps I have looked at so far is that the checkout process can be a bit clunky and difficult to navigate on a mobile.
With Ocado, if you have a card already registered on the site, the process is as easy as it could be, you simply need to sign in and confirm your order. If you haven't, it becomes trickier, as you have to negotiate the main website's checkout process from your iPhone.
This is not impossible, but it is tricky and time consuming, especially if you don't have a great 3G signal where you are.
Overall though, it's a well-designed and usable app, and offers a useful service for bust customers. It will be interesting to see if it catches on, and whether other supermarkets follow suit.