Why Tescos Uncertainty is Music to My Ears

Listening to Nick Lansley, head of R&D at Tesco.com, speaking at the IAB’s mCommerce seminar this morning, you get the impression of a man, and a company, determined to do the right thing in the mobile channel, and to work with other companies, including competitors, to achieve this, and to help them achieve it too.

Lansley took delegates through the journey Tesco had been on in developing its grocery shopping app, and was refreshingly candid about the process and the logic behind some of the decisions the company had taken.

“Even I have to admit I can’t get excited about grocery shopping,” he said, before adding: “If we had thought deeply about doing groceries online we probably would have run a mile.”

He then outlined some of the issues around online shopping, and the ways in which the app addresses some of these, and makes the task of grocery shopping easier. Among other things, users can scan barcodes of items they like the look of to add them to their basket, building up the basket over the course of a few days until they are ready to checkout.

Lansley admitted too that Tesco does know at this stage whether an app, or a mobile site, is the right approach. It has tried both, with various Tesco apps, and a transactional site for Tesco Direct. He praised the functionality that can be built into an app, but also stressed the issues involved in designing for multiple mobile operating systems. He told delegates that the company will try a hybrid app, where the app has some core functionality, but the majority of what it can do would involve going out to the mobile web. But it was great to hear someone in his position stand up and say out loud: “Do we do apps or would it not be better if we did a mobile site? We’re not quite sure at the moment.”

It’s the sort of candour that another retail mobile champion, Sienne Veit from M&S, displays whenever she speaks about the company’s mobile experiences, and it makes such a refreshing change from listening to people who, though they might not say it explicitly, give the appearance of knowing all the answers and never putting a foot wrong. I for one look forward to seeing what Tesco does next in the mobile space.

David Murphy