Blog: Dean BestTesco turns to IFTTT to automate grocery shopping

Dean Best | 14 April 2016

An eye-catching tech move from Tesco has been revealed this week - and one that has echoes of one of Amazon's latest initiatives in the US.

Tesco has teamed up with If This Then That - or IFTTT for short - a free web service that allows users to create chains of commands, or, in the jargon "recipes".

IFTTT, launched in 2011, can automate web-application tasks, such as sharing content from Facebook to Twitter without any extra clicks, or tweet automatically the photos you post on Instagram.

On its website, IFTTT also lists ways it can help you in the home, from turning on your branded Hue light bulbs when the day hits sunset to setting your alarm when you leave the house.

Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, thinks it can use IFTTT to make an online shopper's order easier to make. It has created its own channel on IFTTT to make grocery shopping more automated. Examples of some of the recipes set up include "if a product goes below a certain price then add it to my basket" or "add milk on Thursdays".

"With the rise of connected home devices we’ve been doing a variety of experiments to help serve shoppers a little better every day and we’re happy to announce one of these is now available for you to try yourself," Tesco's Paul Wilkinson says.

Your correspondent is a lapsed fan of IFTTT - our social media posts are made a different way now - and a semi-regular online grocery shopper. We'll report back on how useful this Tesco channel is.

Keith Anderson, vice president at e-commerce consultants Profitero, welcomed the idea. "The move is reminiscent of Amazon's Dash Replenishment service, which integrates directly with products including a new Brita water filter to automatically re-order items when supplies are low," he said. "The initiative doesn't yet seem to have the full commercial support that Amazon's services do, but it's a good sign that Tesco is taking a customer-centric approach to eliminating the friction and tedium of routine tasks.

"Unlike Amazon's Dash and Alexa services, the Tesco offering doesn't require any special purchases like a Dash button, Dash Replenishment Service-integrated product, or Echo device. And given the flexibility of the IFTTT platform, these first few recipes may be just the start of something big."

However, Anderson added: "One shortcoming: no voice integration. Once experienced, the magic of Amazon's Alexa opens one's eyes to the potential of new interfaces for shopping and other common tasks. It will certainly be worth following to see which "recipes" become popular, and whether Tesco puts more marketing support behind it."

Sectors: Multichannel, Retailers

Companies: Tesco

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