Waitrose MD forced to apologise after month of chaos on £10m website

The managing director of Waitrose has been forced to apologise after the supermarket’s website experienced a fourth week of speed and navigational problems.

Mark Price insisted that rectifying the problems was a “top priority” for the company.

Waitrose warned on a web forum that the work to increase the speed of the site was “taking a little longer than expected”. It has taken steps to allow users to create longer login names, which were previously malfunctioning, and to allow shoppers to enter all the goods from their lists into their online shopping baskets, which was previously not possible.

The site is understood to be based on IBM Websphere Commerce, and was co-developed by Infosys. Design was by digital marketing firm Grand Union, which is not responsible for the site's maintenance. Infosys declined to comment, and IBM and Grand Union had not commented at the time of writing. Waitrose has not confirmed which technology was affected.

The £10 million website investment was part of a revamp of the firm's online operation intended to make ordering easier, provide new services and boost sales. Price had said before the launch that it would "dramatically enhance the customer experience" so that shoppers receive "unrivalled standards of service".

“We've just carried out the biggest-ever transformation of an online shopping site and, as with all new websites, there are some problems and I'm very sorry about these,” Price noted this week on a forum for Waitrose customers.

“I know that you may have had a frustrating and time-consuming experience - please accept my sincere apologies if that's the case.”

Waitrose has been posting some “quick fix” guides for steps customers can take when they are met with specific error messages. A spokesperson said it was addressing the speed concerns as a "matter of urgency".

But Price warned customers that “some things may take longer so please bear with us”.

Waitrose has said order volumes are up 25 percent on last year. But the deluge of comments from angry customers is having a negative impact as some begin to shop at rivals.

Since the launch, angry Waitrose customers have complained on the web about the challenges they experienced on the website.

Writing this week about the “appalling” Waitrose website on Twitter, jonnilicious said: “Goodbye Waitrose, hello Ocado.”

Michelle 0728 wrote: “Waitrose screwed up delivery again. This new website is a disaster.”

“25 seconds to load 'my products' and then 12 seconds to add an item to the basket - I think it is getting worse and even the promise of better speeds is a very lukewarm statement,” wrote GLBA on the Waitrose forum. “I would still love to know why it is so slow - natural/morbid curiosity.”

“Given up again,” wrote Cazziebee. “Last week delivery cancelled and transferred to Sainsburys.

“Tried again this week, so far spent my entire lunch break and 2 hours tonight trying to sort it out and find what i want, but it is so slow and difficult to navigate. So given up again and cancelled and back to Sainsburys.”

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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