The supermarket giants battled it out during the festive period, but an analysis of customer comments about online deliveries suggest that Morrisons is posing a threat to its Bracknell-based rival, Waitrose.  

The northern supermarket’s early foray into online shopping is generating positive emotions, while many of Waitrose’s online customers fume at the poor service they feel they are now getting from the previously invincible retailer.

The warning signs for Waitrose became apparent during the pre-Christmas online shopping rush when a study of consumer comments about online deliveries, from social insight specialist SpectrumInsight, revealed it was the worst performer among all of the major digital grocery suppliers.  

The SpectrumInsight study analysed highly positive and negative emotional content, including happiness, anger, disgust and contempt of real-time tweets covering online deliveries and click and collect services between 14 and 24 December, 2013. Twitter is ideal for gauging public opinion on this issue because users not only reflect the profile of online shoppers but also increasingly use the same devices for both. 

Ocado scored the highest in the critical two weeks before Christmas, with +6.5%, followed by Sainsbury’s (+4.5%) and Argos (+3%), with Tesco on -4%, John Lewis on -4.5%, Asda also on -4.5% and Waitrose on -6% (at a confidence level of 95% plus or minus 2.5% overall).

Waitrose’s poor showing was relatively easy to dismiss at the time as a blip created by consumer demand for online shopping being far greater than expected during the run-up to Christmas, but the latest SpectrumInsight findings, for January, suggests it might be the start of a more worrying underlying trend.  Delivering another negative score of -2.2%, Waitrose consumers have continued to fume at the supermarket’s online shopping service, with complaints about late deliveries higher than for any other brand.

The good news for Waitrose is that Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Asda’s online shopping services all performed worse than they did during January, with scores of -2.9%, -3.3% and -6.3%, respectively.  The bad news, however, is that newcomer Morrisons out-performed them by delivering a positive score of +2.4% using the very platform, Ocado, on which Waitrose first delivered its digital shopping service (January  percentages are given at a confidence level of 95% plus or minus 1.9% overall).  

Customers love Ocado – the company’s own scores of 6.5% and 3.1% were the highest among all online retailers for December and January, respectively; and as Waitrose’s online consumers lose patience with the growing levels of substitutions and late deliveries that no number of complimentary bottles of champagne can ameliorate, the question arises as to whether a significant number might be tempted to try Morrisons because of the Ocado connection.

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