Kick-starting online grocery sales for Sainsbury’s


In recent times the way we do our grocery shopping has evolved. Consumers began to realise that driving to the supermarket, walking around and picking products off the shelves and placing them into a trolley, standing in queues to pay and then loading up the car and driving back home again wasn’t the most convenient customer journey and instead it was far better to be able to order online and get someone else to do the work.

Mark Dermody, founder at Lyst, joined Sainsbury’s at the start of the period where supermarkets were beginning to take a move to online grocery sales seriously and became responsible for all of their ecommerce and digital platforms.


The challenge when creating a successful online groceries system was that there was no single action that would on its own achieve the desired result.

A number of different initiatives focusing on everything from technical capacity, the user experience and CRM to delivery routing and store fulfilment. Improving all of these individual areas and getting them syncronised would be needed in order to enable and then support this huge sales growth.


  • Technical capacity

There needed to be enough technical capacity in the platform to enable the additional customers to browse and place their orders with great site speed and no timing out errors due to capacity bottlenecks. This was very technical in nature and entailed replacing all of the server and network infrastructure, migrating to a tier 1 data centre and upgrading the key application components that the customer relied on to get a great experience on the website.


  • User experience

To maximise the ease of use for the customer it was important to ensure that we created a frictionless and efficient customer journey so that it was an enjoyable and hassle-free experience when using and ordering via the website.


  • CRM

Upgrading the CRM capability meant that it would be possible to better segment and target the customers, for example identify personalised products and promotions to specific customers. This also included showing alongside specific products what products other customers viewed and purchased to support cross sell and up sell.


  • Delivery routing and scheduling

It was critical to be able to offer one-hour delivery slots to customers so we looked at an initiative that enabled that. We enhanced the capability of the system that calculated the optimum van delivery routes and the best sequence and timing and then accurate delivery slots to ensure that when the customer booked a delivery slot they always received their order in that slot. This also enabled us through efficiencies to get more orders per van thereby managing costs.


  • Store fulfilment

Customer orders were collated from the shelves in-store – you are probably familiar with seeing Sainsbury’s staff pickers in store with hand-held devices and bagging the order into blue totes/boxes. We enhanced this system to allow the picker to pick multiple customer orders and also for the system to inform, based on an understanding of the stores individual layout, of the most efficient pick order and pick route around the store.


The above initiatives were behind a huge increase in online purchases and fuelled a natural migration of customers from store to online. 

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