Forget about automated executions, Asian grocers are handling the online surge with just WhatsApp
As part of the COVID-19 situation, the US online grocery market tripled in both sales and volumes from March to April compared to the same period last year, as reported by Rakuten Intelligence. Likewise, UK online supermarket Ocado saw demand skyrocket 10 times more than usual, with mid-size orders more than doubling. The retailer, acclaimed for its proprietary automated fulfillment capabilities, even struggled to keep up with storage demands. GlobalData Research has also revised its figures for the UK online grocery market, now anticipating further growth of 25.5% this year, an increase of 8.5% from what was originally forecast.
This spike crippled other online services such as Amazon Fresh and Instacart, leading to new customers being banned and increased delivery capabilities with new hires. Yet, looking at Asia, a region known for its cutting-edge technology, they simply went back to basics when it came to shopping during the pandemic rush – simply, just through WhatsApp.
Fight or run away
Traditional players offering online shopping services also face the same challenges, leaving loyal customers frustrated with limited or no delivery slots and having to wait in virtual queues for an open delivery window. In the UK, only those classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the government list are prioritized with an online slot machine with supermarkets.
Given the circumstances, several retailers have launched the launch of their same-day delivery services, as evidenced by Walmart’s latest premium express delivery program and UK supermarket Waitrose’s ‘fast’ delivery scheme – both under the promise. two hours.
The challenges of securing delivery slots have also prompted computer science students to create programs and systems for the public that notify customers of openings as well as stock availability. Georgetown University’s Adrian Hertel designed a coding script that specifically alerts users when Whole Foods and Amazon have opened a delivery window. Meanwhile, University of Texas students Rithwik Pattikonda and Darshan Bhatta also created InStok, a system that aggregates near real-time inventory levels of items from big box stores such as Target and CVS.
Back to the roots
While major Asian online players such as JD.com and Alibaba have sophisticated infrastructures in place, other retailers have taken a more “old-fashioned” approach to order fulfillment through WhatsApp.
In April, Facebook made the largest minority investment in the telecommunications arm of Reliance Group Jio for 9.9% of the shares in a $ 5.7 billion deal. Through this alliance, Facebook’s investment forms a business partnership with Reliance’s JioMart, a recently launched O2O (online-to-offline) grocery marketplace that connects merchants with customers. With India being the largest community on WhatsApp, comprising over 400 million of the world’s two billion users, the partnership creates new opportunities for Kiranas (small local family shops) to sell their products natively within the messaging application. Customers simply text the Jio number and the bot will direct the user with an expiring link to a browser-based mini-store to place their orders and pay in-store upon pickup.
In Bengaluru, India, the government of Karnataka has implemented a system for ordering essentials, groceries and medicine by calling or texting a designated number on WhatsApp. The project partners with local kiranas as collection points as well as Zomato and Swiggy platforms for delivery. Other larger supermarkets in metropolitan cities, such as Tesco in Malaysia and FairPrice Xpress in Singapore, have also rolled out WhatsApp same-day ordering and collection services to facilitate access for residents of the neighboring neighborhood.
While technology is encouraged and avidly used as a solution for all, the WhatsApp ordering system is a good illustration of how sometimes the most nimble and agile way to maximize efficiency is to “keep it simple, dumb” .
There have been years of waiting for Facebook’s WhatsApp to become a great app to compete with China’s WeChat, but one core feature it still lacks is its transactional capabilities. However, with recent developments, the launch of WhatsApp for Pending Business and WhatsApp Pay accounts in India brings the platform closer to its super app status. In these unprecedented times, Facebook, in turn, may well become the next online grocery competitor given the partnership with Jio, sparking more retail collaborations and opportunities for the future.