Online shopping site, mySupermarket, spurs expansion on $10m investment

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Online shopping site, mySupermarket, is on a roll. It is ratcheting up users, adding new brand stores, launching a transactional mobile website and expanding internationally on the back of a recent $10m investment led by WPP. James Foord, vp business development, tells Retail Times editor, Fiona Briggs, why the model is right for now and tomorrow 

Foord: a consumer-led, vigilante site

Foord: a consumer-led, vigilante site

James Foord, vp business development mySupermarket, refutes current suggestions the online grocery comparison website is a one trick pony. 

“In the early days, people who had heard of mySupermarket would have said it was a comparison site and put it on the shelf with other comparison sites,” he admits. 

“Customers can compare prices but that’s just one part of the business. It’s an independent consumer site, a shopping site, and that’s where the focus needs to be.”

Foord joined mySupermarket.com a year ago. Previously, as director of retention at ancestry.com, he helped people in the sedentary search for their family history.

Now he’s helping people in an active search for best value in their grocery shopping, online and off.

“MySupermarket is a customer-led, vigilante site, which helps customers get the best value for their shopping,” he claims. “It’s not just about comparing prices but helping them get the best deals, to buy in bulk, or not to buy because a product is not on offer and to use vouchers. It also has the functionality so people can shop and compare on the go.”

Repositioning 

Fresh focus and positioning

Fresh focus and positioning

Foord credits mySupermarket CEO, Allon Bloch, with the repositioning of the website. 

“Allon changed the focus of the business. He completely sold the business to me and I left ancestry immediately,” he says. 

But Foord was also missing the cut and thrust of the retail world. He had joined Tesco as a graduate in 1995 and spent 11 years with the supermarket, all in marketing, latterly looking after grocery marketing online and helping to set up the non-food business, Tesco Direct. 

He jumped ship to Sainsbury’s in 2006 and spent three years with the retailer, also scoping out its online non-food operation. Ancestry, which he joined in 2009, provided a break from the blue chips. 

“I had the Tesco and Sainsbury’s badges and wanted to do something less corporate,” he recalls.

Foord is now back in his comfort zone, but insists it’s a different business model to the UK’s leading grocers.

“We are really trying to turn the retail landscape on its head,” he says. “We don’t care how much a customer spends on the site – all we care about is that they are getting the best value they can. That makes it very unique.”

Shopping missions

Health & Beauty shop: comparing Boots and Superdrug with top grocers

Health & Beauty shop: comparing Boots and Superdrug with top grocers

According to Foord, the new focus has been boosted by a complete relaunch of the website in November 2011. 

Waitrose was added to the grocery section and Boots and Superdrug to a new Health & Beauty shop.

Foord claims it’s in the best interest of the consumer to consider doing a separate health and beauty shop, a concept that has really taken off in the US.

“I think the same will happen here,” he says. “Being able to compare Boots and Superdrug to the five big grocers offers full transparency on health and beauty products and showcases the great own label ranges the grocers don’t have such as No.7, for example.”

Foord says mySupermarket is becoming a destination for shopping journeys and missions across grocery, health & beauty and wine; and they are “incredibly close” in terms of customer profile and basket content to the supermarkets.

The site is purposefully clean and uncluttered with the biggest images in the marketplace, says Foord. 

According to Foord, the site’s secret sauce is not price comparison but an algorithm that enables comparisons on products and their DNA. That means it can match and compare non-identical products such as one own label to another or to a brand, he says. And, if there’s sufficient accuracy of match and relevance, the site will suggest alternative products.

Savvy shoppers

It is winning traction among users. Foord reports traffic has increased since the relaunch, hitting a peak of 3.5m users in December 2011 and 3m in April 2012. It has 2.5m monthly unique visitors, up 100% year-on-year and is maintaining that level of growth, says Foord.

The gains are not solely a function of the redesigned site, however.

“People are understanding what we are about now and that we are an authority on supermarket pricing and saving money. The state of the nation plays to our strengths – it’s a good solution to help people out in their time of need.”

Foord claims the aggressive price war among top supermarkets is helping establish the mySupermarket business further and changing consumer behaviour is sending a warning signal to retailers.

“It’s now cool to look around. It’s the dawn of the savvy shopper, people who are looking for smart purchases. The way recession is changing consumer attitudes is dangerous for the retailer – habits will change forever.”

In this scenario, mySupermarket helps customers manage their expenditure and at both ends of the budget spectrum, says Foord.

He says it’s a telling statistic the average basket size has fallen from £83.00 a few years ago to £80.00 in 2011 and £75.00 today, in spite of widely-publicised food inflation.

“The items in the basket have not changed, customers are using us to defy inflation,” Foord claims (click on Page 2 to read the rest of the article).