Tesco first launched its ecommerce site back in 2000. How and why has the supermarket developed its online offer since it emerged?

The grocer’s website over the years paints the picture of both its ups and downs as a business, and also the evolution of ecommerce site design and usability principles in general.

Tesco felt that there was an opportunity to use the web to expand beyond the ranges it offered in stores, in categories such as telecoms, entertainment and books, home delivery of flowers, financial services, etc.

The story of its ill-fated purchase of Blinkbox and subsequent sale or closure of various parts of that business have made headlines in recent years.

Fast forward to today, and the 2016 homepage displays a much cleaner and more coherent proposition than previous iterations. This makes it easier to navigate, and it seems to have found its place online.

It looks much less like it’s trying to be Amazon, and more like it’s trying to be the best Tesco online that it can be.

Introduction to ecommerce

Back in 2000, Tesco.com – the portal for its other online sites - had to explain its proposition on the main homepage, and categories that were available to buy online.

I’d hazard a guess that today’s online grocery shoppers wouldn’t now find the then online shopper journey as “quick” or “easy” as was described, but Tesco was still very much in an education phase.

The underlined hyperlinks would make a web designer of today wince (also still evident in the 2002 version) but even then Tesco was pushing the bar on multichannel retail; its Clubcard loyalty scheme was already multichannel, and it was learning how to use content to make its site stickier.

“It looks much less like it’s trying to be Amazon and more like it’s trying to be the best Tesco online that it can be”

By 2006, Tesco had introduced the first generation of rollover navigation, which fundamentally changed the way the website worked.

The only other online grocers to use the rollover homepage layout are Ocado and Morrisons, although it has been more widely adopted by brands in other retail sectors.

Mobile ambitions

Between 2011 and 2013 we can see that the top 10 offers-led imagery has given way to an editorial-style carousel, and by 2016 a more content-led approach is evident on the portal homepage.

Despite changes to the technology platforms of the underlying sites (and it’s F&F clothing brand being moved onto the same platform as Tesco Direct) the 2016 site is architecturally very similar to the 2006 edition, retaining its simplicity.

The simple click-through style of site interaction and navigation has developed as more consumers access on touch devices and the main category options dominate its current smartphone site, speeding up the mobile user journey.

Tesco has always been a mobile retailing pioneer. In 2007 it launched a WAP site for Tesco Mobile customers, that, a year later, was registering 300,000 unique users a month.

The grocer has come in for much bashing in the last few years, but the evolution of the Tesco.com homepage reflects the industry changes over the years.

It now has a more mature, confident feel to it that clearly works well for its customers.

  • Mark Pinkerton is director of optimisation at Practicology