Over 600 supermarkets and 800 convenience stores, plus £4.7bn group online sales in 2019. Now, that’s what you call a multi-channel retailer!

But what happens when a global pandemic hits? An online explosion:

  • Site traffic up 400%
  • Sold items up 200%
  • Click and collect up 700%
  • Demand for home delivery through the roof!

Sainsbury’s mission was clear; to feed the nation. But under such enormous demand, the question was; could Sainsbury’s online handle the pressure?

Yes it could. But it needed to dial up on digital and double its capacity.


Having worked with Sainsbury’s for many years, VML Commerce was delighted to have the opportunity to help. After all, it was us who had helped implement its WebSphere commerce platform in 2014, which enabled it to double its online capacity.

But that was then, and this was March 2020 with a global pandemic and national lockdown upon us.

Our commerce consultants and commerce developers worked alongside Sainsbury’s to keep the platform performing powerfully by:

  • Building a unique visitor priority service using transactional data, government list and information from the call centre to identify elderly, disabled and vulnerable (EDV) customers.
  • Introducing recurring slots for EDV customers.
  • Adapting the platform to reduce slot availability and optimise slot allocation for non-EDV customers.
  • Expanding the cloud infrastructure to cope with the increase in traffic.
  • Increased real-time reporting to help Sainsbury’s manage capacity levels.

We helped Sainsbury's to shield the vulnerable, while still providing a service to Sainsbury's loyal customers. And, in so doing, protected the NHS, and saved lives.


Sainsbury's was able to support double its weekly online orders by October 2020. And through VML Commerce's help, it was able to:

  • handle the fourfold increase in site traffic
  • process tens of thousands of orders per hour
  • manage hundreds of "adds to basket" a second
  • serve hundreds of personalised page views per second
The work you’ve contributed here to our overall response to COVID has been second-to-none and we’re grateful for all the effort you put in. There’s been a lot of press around the huge growth of Sainsbury's Groceries Online and how Sainsbury’s assisted our most vulnerable customers in the past 6 months. The VML Commerce team were a big part of that effort.

Stuart Boundy

(former) Head of Engineering, Sainsbury's

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