Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws

Tesco has soft-launched the redesigned Tesco Direct website with two “Marketplace” sellers and guess what…we’re already seeing that there has been little learned by looking at the core rival Amazon.

The Tesco marketplace have two merchants live on the platform already, Crocus & Maplins and its the latter merchant that is making it clear that Tesco haven’t really worked out that Data is the life blood of an eCommerce business just yet.


Product Page – Tesco Owned Item

Tesco Marketplace Product Page 1I’ll be back to that topic in a few moments, but for now let’s have a drill down of the features of a 3rd party item and a Tesco owned item. There are going to be a few comments I’m not going to make, the reason is sat in the previous articles here regarding the Tesco Marketplace.

To the right is a screenshot highlighting some key points on the product detail page, if you click on the image it’ll open in a full sized window or you can view the live item here.

My first observation is the catalogue number, its base ten and not base 36.

If I’ve lost you already let me explain. We work in base 10 from 0 to 9 (that’s our fingers which caused that), base 36 is from zero (0) all the way to Z, so numbers and letters.

Why’s that important? Base 10 has a very low number variations for products, well in fact 7^10 = 282,475,249 possible variations. Yes, that’s 282 million variations, but we’re dealing with products and as they are potentially opening the platform up to 3rd parties, then 282 million SKU’s is nothing given enough time.

A quick flip to Amazon’s ASIN’s (ASIN’s are Amazon’s unique identifier for each product, see here) and an example is B005890FU. Taking this to the ultimate limit of ZZZZZZZZZ in base 36, this is normal numbers from 0 to 9 is 101,559,956,668,415 or 102 Trillion variations give or take a few million for rounding :).

102 Trillion V’s 280 million = No comparison

Let’s go a little deeper for a moment, if I’m loosing you from the above section, this one is even more important. The product identifiers have a hyphen between them. In the case of the TV above the catalogue id is “210-7084”.

But what importance could an hyphen have? It means it’ll be parsed as a text string by a 3rd party system. If we count 1, 2, 3 etc… it makes sense, counting 210-7084, 210-7085, 210-7086 does not because they’re’s a hyphen in the way. So a sub-function that splits or removes the hyphen needs to be run, the number value then incremented and then inserts the hyphen back in.

That’s one way of doing it, it can be done with regex & other methods, but my point is, its an unnecessary and a carry-over from the catalogue side of Tesco.

After that, the rest is mustard.

We’ve got…

  • Titles that overflow the navigation
  • Customer reviews (nice)
  • Primitive bullet points
  • Poorly formatted descriptions
  • An ugly specifics table
  • Half hearted cross selling
  • I love the orange add to cart button, I really do. Have you tried green though?
  • And my last note, look at the top right, the wording has been added “Buy from *”, which changes between Tesco and the 3rd party merchant. But where is the link?

Wonky Product Data

There are two merchants live on Tesco’s Direct website, Crocus & Maplins. Nice touch on adding Crocus, I really want some onions with my TV.

My point, however is picking on one SKU, of which I assure you that if you cross compare the data between the two sites, it’s not alone. Take a look at this item on Tesco Direct. A screen shot is below.


Can you see the issue?

Not spotted it yet? Take a look at the item from the Maplins site here. Look at the picture and read the title. Yep, that’s a purple product and a black title.

Dig around the other product data from Maplins on Tesco Direct for a few minutes and it’s not alone. Not to mention the pointless extra images in items such as this SKU or this SKU.

Tesco Seller Stores & ClubCard Points

I really like the idea of buyers being able to obtain “Club Card” points with 3rd party sales, there is a dedicated “Sellers at Tesco” page that you can read over here.

Tesco Seller Stores & ClubCard Points

I also like the fully customised store landing pages for both Maplins & Crocus, screen shots are below and if you click on them, it’ll take you to the pages:

Tesco Marketplace Maplins Store Tesco Marketplace Crocus Store

But to deliver this to a wider audience, that needs back-end tools in place and even Amazon have not even come close to the ~£81.4M that eBay take from eBay Shop owners every year in the UK alone and the eBay Shop is one of the most poorly supported product eBay have.

By the way if you think that number is obscene, I added up the USA & international eBay Shop revenues, you better brace yourselves for that in a later article, I did fall off my chair.


I’m going to leave this article at this point. Mainly because if I continue I’ll edge on the negative side and we’ve got to be fair here, Tesco have made a good crack at it so far with picking two unrelated merchants, even if one is odd and the other has data issues.

If let unchecked, then the Tesco Direct marketplace for Tesco is quickly going to go down the pan as far as duplicated & inaccurate data is concerned. To a data freak, this is alarming, but to be expected and I frankly did not expect it so early. It’s a nightmare/plague/cancer on Amazon with duplicates and just indicates that the process to check data needs some work.

Your Thoughts?

The grape-vine has already spilled that discussions have been made with 3rd party software providers a long time ago. So let’s run with a hypothetical question here.

  • What would you pay to gain access to the Tesco customer base?
    For both commission on sale & would you consider a start up fee?

You can let me know in the comments box below.

25 replies
  1. Lily
    Lily says:

    I’ve had the same issue with Trove and Tesco are cleaning their hands saying I have to get untouched with Trove directly for my refund. On trove’s website they state to wait for Tesco to refund me and Tesco are saying Trove will have to refund me! Am really tired and want my money back on a vacuum cleaner that on Tesco’s website was in stock however more than a week later contacted Tesco the said the order has been cancelled and refund due. 2 weeks in and am still chasing for my 83 £ refund!!!

    This is ridiculous the Trove number always to automated voicemail and just give email that no one gets back! As per the post on 2012 stating they will put a phone , I guess they did but never to get in touch with customers. Hence Tesco still clean thier hands in the refund and still STRESS that I should get I touch with Trove!!!! Who NEVER answer !!!!!

    • OC
      OC says:

      I’m not sure Trove is the same as Hughes. They seem to have a site website (http://www.troveshopping.com/) and an understaffed telephone number. I ordered an item from Tesco a week ago and the day before it was due to be delivered they notified me that it had just been dispatched, 3-5 day delivery. Tesco of course wash their hands and say that any cancellations are a matter for Trove.

      • Helena
        Helena says:

        Re: Trove

        I just wanted to add that I too have ordered a product from Tesco online (not realising that a 3rd party was involved). Trove have failed to deliver the item and don’t return any calls. Nobody ever answers the telephone and Tesco will not escalate the matter for me until I have waited (can’t remember the exact figure) so many business days! Very worrying that I thought I was ordering a product from a reputable company when in fact they are being misrepresented it seems by Trove!

      • Matthew Ogborne
        Matthew Ogborne says:


        I contacted Trove and they’ve given me this email address for you to contact them directly [email protected].

        They apologised profusely as they are putting in a new phone system and said that they’ll reply as soon as they seen an email from you.


  2. Matthew Ogborne
    Matthew Ogborne says:


    An interesting quote from the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17748586

    “Also, there will be a big expansion of what will be available over the internet, to 80,000 lines by Christmas, compared with 40,000 now. And Tesco is posing a direct challenge to Amazon, by increasing to 200,000 lines the products that other retailers can offer through Tesco’s online marketplace”

    So aiming for 80,000 from 40,000 in house and adding an additional 200,000 SKu’s from 3rd parties.

    That to me is a bucket-load of headache, I really hope they’ve got something they’ve not shown us yet for the backend system because what’s on the front end isn’t looking too great just yet.


  3. Lace
    Lace says:

    Well spotted Matt, perhaps this is the very reason Tesco quietly launched their site (but that’s not really possible with social media). I hope Tesco gets a read of your post and address these teething problems, especially it’s from an ecommerce expert.

    I have a feeling they are racing against time here as it’s all about momentum, otherwise Tesco Direct would be in danger of being another “could have been” competitor to Amazon.

  4. Dave Furness
    Dave Furness says:

    Understandably There is bound to be a few teething problems with something on this scale hence the damage limitation with only using two companies at the minute. As James has mentioned in his article the Lure of the club card points and picking up from your local store is a fantastic concept.

    With Tesco having a bit of a tough time in the press recently, they really need this to work well, and as Jason mentioned above, I imagine there will be no shortage of companies wanting a bit of real estate on the Tesco Direct site. Its early days but if they can wrap up a few of the issues there having as you have outlined above Matt then they could be a force to be reckoned with.


  5. Jason Hawkins
    Jason Hawkins says:

    Teething issues aside, this has to be good for third party sellers in the long run, displaying products on some of the busiest websites in the uk has to have a positive effect for sellers. I personally would jump at the chance to be on Tesco website. Interestingly theres a lot of “page not found” errors for Maplin products at the time I looked.

    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Howdy James,

      Fab article.

      The distribution network side is scary, but the answer is simple. Ship the products to the stores, not the customer addresses ;-) There is a side shoot advantage of doing this, Tesco retain the customer details.



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws – http://t.co/0v5iwPcT

  2. […] I looked at the Tesco Marketplace back in April, we could already see signs that it’s launch had not been that well thought through and […]

  3. #Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws – http://t.co/TzVug2PW

  4. Anyone else heard of Trove? New seller live on Tesco Marketplace http://t.co/jHNxdBJq & http://t.co/XqbEusSA

  5. RE: http://t.co/wYXpxUQu Anyone else spotted the 3 new merchants on #TescoMarketplace? http://t.co/FJP8sWBU

  6. #Tesco #Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws – http://t.co/vfytpQM6

  7. #Tesco #Marketplace “expecting to get to 200,000 SKU’s by Christmas from 3rd parties”. See comment here http://t.co/eGL83o0l

  8. @Matthewogborne spots Tesco Direct’s teething problems http://t.co/RiU94QdO

  9. Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws: Tesco have soft launched the redesigned … http://t.co/UeG9D1IH #in

  10. Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws: Tesco have soft launched the … http://t.co/OxX0zlxV @lastdropofink

  11. #Tesco #Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws http://t.co/7Li8RlP8 <= Just Posted!

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