How Loqate has helped UK grocery retailer Sainsbury's to ‘feed the nation’ with enhanced location data

When the global pandemic hit the UK, essential retailers radically overhauled their operations to ensure the most vulnerable of our society could survive the rapidly developing health crisis. This mammoth task of ‘feeding the nation’ was made possible through a combined effort from retailers, the government, smart technology and enhanced data. Read on to discover how Loqate’s geolocation technology has helped one of the UK’s leading supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, to better support their delivery drivers during the coronavirus crisis.

In a recent article published on Medium, Chris Grice, Engineering Manager at Sainsbury's explains how, as well as streamlining front-end operations, the tech team there have been busy working on how to improve the ‘back end’ operations, and quickly.

Managing the planning, scheduling and routing of the online delivery and collections part of the business, Chris explains how geolocation data provides their drivers with the ability to accurately deliver groceries to their customers.

Last-mile delivery powered by PAF

Traditionally the Sainsbury's delivery team navigation would have been powered by Royal Mail PAF combined with latitude/longitude of that postcode. However, with the sheer volume of orders, they wanted to do more to help their driver cope with increased demand, “While postcodes are great for routing mail, they cover a wider geographic area than might be expected. The data we were using provides the centre point, or centroid, of this postcode area”. Chris has included a great visual example of this in his blog, which clearly shows how Sainsbury’s in Nairn, near Inverness, has the postcode of IV12 5QF, yet the store is actually almost 1 kilometre down the road from the centre point of this postcode at a local business park.

Chris goes on to explain how there are multiple examples where enhanced data can be used to provide a delivery team with more accurate navigation, such as rural regions where postcode areas are much more spread out, unlit streets where it’s difficult to find house numbers or villages which contain a high proportion of houses with names rather than numbers.

Using enhanced data to scale-up and meet customer demand

With the global pandemic in full force, the team wanted to come up with a solution to support the business in its promise to get essentials to elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers. Not only this, but they needed to make it easy for the delivery team to find the addresses of the growing number of new online customers whose location may not be familiar to the delivery team. New recruits also needed a quick and easy way to find addresses accurately.

Loqate supply Royal Mail PAF data to Sainsbury's, and now we also supply 1-meter accuracy data which has enabled the Sainsbury's team to ‘scale-up and meet demand’ to help ensure deliveries could be made within the hour timeslot.

Success for the delivery teams and customer experience

In just three short weeks, through various system updates across multiple teams in Sainsbury's, improvements were made to the geolocation service for delivery drivers and trials were set up in Kent with huge success. Following this, further trials were set up for stores in Devon, Cornwall and Northern Ireland. These areas were chosen because of a high number of addresses using house names, and in Northern Ireland’s case, historically poor accuracy of Sainsbury's address data.

The team saw similar results to the initial pilot and immediately started to roll out changes nationally. “After only a few days usage, the feedback from our drivers' team was overwhelmingly positive”.

Below is some of the feedback from the Sainsbury's delivery drivers. 

"19 out of 19 addresses spot on yesterday"

"It took me right to the door on a street where normally the sat nav will find the house numbers, but then always takes you to the very end of the street, no matter which number you put in, this time I was straight to the front door"