Grocery apps are boldly going where no digital brands have gone before, promising shopping experiences on an unparalleled level.
It wasn’t long ago that a customer would be delighted to have the option of Next Day Delivery. Then Same Day Delivery blew the competition out of the water. Same Hour Delivery quickly followed – and we thought it couldn’t get any better.
Now, digital stores are reaching Sci-Fi levels of speed and convenience meaning you can get your eggs, beer and toilet paper delivered to your door within a mind-boggling 10 minutes.
In fact, grocery app businesses like Weezy, Gorillas and Fancy, are now delivering products so fast, the only way to get goods any quicker would be through a transporter teleportation system like the one made famous on Star Trek in the 1960s.
But while we ‘canna’ change the laws of physics – yet, Redbox CEO, Jonty Sutton believes an increased customer expectation is fuelling a service and delivery evolution. Brands are investing heavily in their digital experiences to keep up with consumer demand.
Jonty said: “The customer expectation has evolved so rapidly in terms of the quality and provision of service, that brands are having to invest to improve those elements.
“We are seeing a very real global trend fuelled by the pandemic. Expectations around delivery times and availability have jumped for customers. These were already on the rise, but they have advanced even faster.
“It’s not just delivery and service. Even email, social media, customer service, logistics tracking – digital brands are investing heavily in these areas as they understand the importance of a seamless customer experience and battle to keep up with the demands of their customers and other brands.”
THE STEADY RISE OF CONVENIENCE AND HYPER-LOCALISATION
Convenience and quick delivery times are nothing new, of course. Businesses such as Amazon made it possible for customers to order and receive products the next day and on the same day, some years ago.
But while food delivery apps such as Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, battled to deliver our takeaways in increasingly quick times during the various stages of the pandemic, the grocery industry was following suit.
Download the Gorillas app and if you live in one of its catchment areas, you can have groceries delivered to your door in just 10 minutes. Weezy promises a similar service but with a 15-minute delivery time. Fancy, who has hubs in major cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, gives a 10-to-30-minute average delivery time on groceries, snacks and drinks.
How do they make these times? Many are opening up small warehouses in various cities with limited stock of different brands, paying the delivery riders or drivers by the hour and often waiting time on top. If a product runs out, it’s taken off the app so the customer can’t be disappointed.
This new hyper-localised way of operating for convenience and speed is having a knock-on effect in how other online brands are utilising their digital stores and operations too.
Jonty continued: “You are seeing a service and delivery boom now, especially in UK cities. You can order something and have it turn up in minutes and it’s driving an element of fast delivery options across the food and beverage board, which is then driving a bigger expectation of getting anything quickly.
“A few years ago, we were happy with same day delivery, now it’s not even half-an-hour.
“Restaurants are changing the way they operate to compete. Wagamama, for instance, is opening kitchens on industrial estates, just to cater for take away and delivery and provide a better, quicker service. It’s being driven by app order and delivery.
“We are seeing a lot more brands come to us for these reasons, whether it be a re-platform or an improvement, or help with any tactical initiatives they would like to make.
“Ultimately, the technology and service provisions are more accessible and available for brands to offer more than ever before. The courier networks are also offering hour deliveries or same day deliveries as very much a standard.
“Brands realise if they do not keep up with customer expectation, they will be left behind. Customers will simply pick up their phones or download an app to find a company that will provide them with the service they want, when they want it. In all areas of digital and ecommerce, this is the biggest change for me – and it’s driving more competition.”
COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION FOR CUSTOMERS, KEY
The businesses that coped best during the early weeks of the pandemic were the ones that pivoted to digital quickly and gave their customers a seamless digital experience.
Soon, with physical stores and restaurants closed and more people going online with more time to browse, customers found they had more choice than ever – and held all the power, literally, in the palm of their hands.
If a fast-food delivery firm wasn’t delivering a restaurant’s food quickly enough, the restaurant would turn to a different firm that would – meaning delivery itself became more efficient.
At the same time, customers would check out customer ratings on the delivery apps such as Just Eat and Uber Eats, meaning the delivery firms became extensions of the restaurants themselves. Customers would often opt for a different restaurant altogether if they saw that delivery service was slow or unreliable.
These growing trends continued after restrictions were lifted. Customers do not want to ring a restaurant and be left waiting to make an order any more. They want to look on an app to see how long the preparation-to-delivery time will take before ordering. They are not prepared to wait two hours for their takeaway food. They want to know how long delivery will take and will leave a negative review if it isn’t within this time frame they have been told. They want to be able to watch on an app to see exactly where in the process their food is at and where the delivery driver is on a map.
These changing customer expectations have now moved into other industries too. The best digital homeware and fashion brands are keeping their customers updated more than ever before. Communication through emails and texts are becoming standard in the industries – so customers know where they stand with their purchase every step of the way. Delivery firms are an integral part of the process, often texting ahead of time to provide exact time slots rather than leaving customers in the dark.
Customers want to be informed. They don’t want to have to go hunting for an email address to find out when they should expect their sofa.
BRANDS ARE STEPPING UP TO THE CHALLENGE
Digital brands are now looking at less wholesale changes to their operations, instead opting for smaller projects and streamlining their product ranges to provide a superior customer experience.
Jonty said: “There are still brands coming to us for a complete re-platform on Adobe Commerce, but what we are seeing a lot of right now are digital businesses wanting to offer a better service proposition around the core range of products they sell.
“They are concentrating on these core products where they are making the most money and investing in the tools and technology to improve the customer experience around these. It’s a lot more about tactical execution developments. A lot of brands are looking at three or four areas of improvements.
“We are also seeing brands take a lot more risks and being innovative when it comes to engaging with customers. It’s not enough to be just sending out a monthly email, there is an expectation for more communication along the whole customer journey.
“The sale doesn’t end at the checkout. There is now huge expectation around the service and delivery and brands are stepping up to the challenge.”
THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL
But with delivery and service now so important, could there be a time when expectation outstrips the ability to supply? What happens when there aren’t enough delivery drivers to fulfil these faster times?
Jonty added: “Delivery is now such a key part of the experience. I don’t know how they are doing it logistically, but there are some advanced modelling and algorithms that are telling brands they can drive this provision.
“Of course, there will be more challenges as this grows. There aren’t a limitless supply of resources or drivers and riders. The risk is that we build up such a number of consumers that the demand will keep growing and we won’t be able to supply, but this seems a long way off.
“Right now, it’s a perpetual circle, as if there wasn’t this customer expectation, brands wouldn’t need to be improving so quickly as they wouldn’t worry about losing reputation or customers by being behind the curve.
“Before the pandemic sustainability was the headline. Consumers were concerned by the sheer number of deliveries, vans on the road and carboard being used for packaging. The pandemic has pushed these concerns back.
“10-minute deliveries come at a cost. Are delivery drivers getting value for money? Are we buying too much ‘stuff?’
“Consumerism and digital are winning right now, but maybe sustainability will drive a different way of shopping again when the pandemic is totally over. Or maybe we’ll see more smaller warehouses or better infrastructure in key locations to help support this trend.
“One thing’s for sure, digital brands are now adept at pivoting and adapting and if the time comes when the machine starts to creak, they’ll be better placed to adapt and pivot once again.”
To find out what you can do to improve your digital operation, give Redbox a call today.