Upmarket UK grocer Waitrose has announced it has invested some GBP10m (US$16.2m) in developing its online grocery platform.

The move will pit the retailer against online-only retailer Ocado, just weeks after Waitrose owner, the John Lewis partnership, sold its stake in Ocado.

The announcement also comes at the end of a non-competition agreement with Ocado, which has meant that Waitrose has not been able to trade within the lucrative M25 region.

Waitrose announced yesterday (20 February) that the new platform will provide the platform for an “immediate step change” that will “transform customers’ experience of its online grocery offer as well equip it for “rapid expansion in e-commerce sales over the next decade”.

The new site will be launched in the second week of March, and has been designed to offer a “seamless, consistent shopping experience across all Waitrose online channels”, including click-and-collect, wine, flowers, gifts, Home Direct and Waitrose entertaining.

The company said that ordering will be “easier and quicker” with more delivery slots being added for times when customer demand is high, and drivers will carry shopping into the kitchen.

The site will also offer “personal touch” features, which allow customers to better replicate the service they would get instore – for example customers can opt for specific numbers of items rather than a standard pack size, such as a single onion, rather than a packet. It also said that customers will be able to request green bananas or extra-thick slices of ham from the deli counter, for example.

Managing director Mark Price said: “This investment in our online platform will dramatically enhance the customer experience so that shoppers receive the unrivalled standards of service and the personal touch they associate with our branches. With more investment planned, this new platform accelerates our progress as a truly multi-channel retailer.”

Shares in Ocado, which sells Waitrose products, fell 7.7% today to 239.3p a share at 14:20 GMT today.