It’s Saturday morning and a hyperlocal experiment is playing on my mind. I have decided to fix a basket of goods and order from each of the new hyperlocal superstars that have hit the scene. Taking a page from the recent coverage, I chose the following:
- Flipkart Nearby
- Amazon Kirana
- Snapdeal Instant
- Ola Store
Next I needed to fix a basket of goods that were across product groups like fruits & veggies, grocery/staples, branded foods and home cleaning products. This would also allow comparison of quality (I can expect variations in fruits and any in-house item like dal) and availability and discounts to MRP for packaged goods. It also needed to be stuff I could use 5 times over since everything is ideally going to arrive the same day!
Have bravely gone for bananas, half kg rice (have you seen the soaring dal prices lately!), branded yogurt (this will always get consumed in my home), biscuits (what’s chai without them?), a beverage, a few Vim bars and a tube of toothpaste. That should be about enough to make sure free I get home delivery I am hoping.
So now let’s see how smooth and easy each process is. Disclosure: I am an out-and-out Big Basketeer for many many years (from the days when it was FabMall and I was a newly married working woman in Bangalore!). Also Big Basket is not hyperlocal. Suffice to say I don’t have an account with any of the above and have not visited their site or downloaded the app yet. Plan was to stick to checking out the websites for this experiment but turns out some are App Only (the next big craze after Hyperlocal!)
Hyperlocal Shopping: Discovery to Ordering to Delivery
Went to grofers.com to realise I had to download the app and punch in an SMS verification code. I was surprised to see the focus on categories like electronics, mobiles, flowers. Most of the shops they source from seem to open only by 11:30 am which seems a tad late for a 90 minute delivery promise. The app didn’t appeal to me much. I was getting confused if I was to focus on the product I was buying or the store it would come from. Frankly the store is not relevant to the shopper for 90% of the items.
Maybe once in a while you may want to get fresh bread from a particular bakery but rest of it really doesn’t matter. Quality promise lies with Grofers (unless some fine print absolves them). Buying a Vim bar and Colgate red gel was itself a bit confusing. I couldn’t find the red gel finally and went for Colgate herbal. These items fall under a store category of Value Mart but I didn’t find Value Mart in the opening screen of stores so I can’t get into ‘Value Mart’ as a section and see multiple items and browse. Finally I picked up all 7 items in my ‘basket’ for Rs. 269. With the first time user 20%discount, it worked out to Rs. 216. The order (placed at 7:30 am) got scheduled for 11:30 am delivery and it was finally delivered by 10:15am itself. Huge plus – no calls for directions!
I paid by cash and collected two cloth bags (fairly big size). Could surely have been put in one bag but bananas and packaged yoghurt was in a separate bag. Overall all items delivered in ship-shape. With free Nestea thrown in, not sure why.
Peppertap still has a website version so I didn’t go for the app download. The whole site was very appealing – layout, search accuracy, adding to cart, etc. I was zipping through it and had loaded my cart fairly quickly. I liked being able to see multiple items as search results with good image quality. I was able to pick the Rs. 10 Vim bar which wasnt appearing in Grofers (had to go for the larger Rs. 30 one).
The total bill came to Rs. 231 so I added a couple of Vim bars to cross the Rs. 250 mark for free delivery. I was all set for a super checkout experience too but the site threw up an error screen. I ended up with an empty cart and took the trouble of selecting all seven items again but unfortunately the site gave the same error again so I gave up.
Consequently there is no feedback on the delivery process and quality of items!
I googled ‘Flipkart Nearby’ and got only articles and news items and through a link in a news item I reached Flipkart Nearby’s Google Play page…. was a warm welcome only for Android app users so it went out of my consideration set. No website, no iOS app.
Googled and got the link. Again a bit of a disappointment – my pincode was not a serviceable area for them. I decided to anyway fill my cart and check out the prices. Firstly minimum purchase for free delivery is much higher at Rs. 499. Secondly, I couldn’t find most of the items. No bananas, Sunfeast biscuits or Danone yogurt. Searched for Colgate and got Tata Salt in the results. Coca-cola search yielded only their Minute Maid juices.
Rice gave way to a salt result again among other things. And finally only a large Vim bar at Rs. 42. And even after I changed to a servicing pincode (they have published a list), I couldn’t get Danone and the Colgate disappeared. All in all, had to give up and move on.
I googled ‘Snapdeal Instant’ and ended up at the regular Snapdeal page. I could find it there also as a branding. So I searched for the individual items but came up short – Coca-Cola was only merchandise like mousepads, the Sunfeast section was all sold out. This was essentially the ‘World Food India Food’ section of Snapdeal that I landed up in. So a full-fledged grocery store is still in the making perhaps.
ZopNow has a full website and iOS and Android apps. I ordered via the iOS app and it was an easy experience. Products are displayed once pincode is ascertained. Range of products is wide with the toothpaste category also stocking Patanjali (of Baba Ramdev fame) brand. There was no Danone stock but the options in beverages and rice was quite extensive. Delivery is a promise of 3 hours which is essentially slots of 3 hours and not 3 hours from order placement. First-time use discount was applicable only for an order worth more than Rs. 1000 and that too 10%.
The delivery was received in the committed slot, brought in a plastic box like Big Basket and cloth bag handed over. This time I tested for change and as is typical with most delivery persons, he didn’t have change for Rs. 500 for a bill amount of Rs. 210. The items were delivered with a couple of concerns – I had paid Rs. 36 for two huge bananas and the Dark Fantasy biscuit packet was open (luckily it contain individual biscuits sealed in covers).
Discovered the website with a quick Google search. This is again App only but the iOS app experience was superb. The App lets you use Location Services or manually indicate your locality. Within a couple of minutes I had all 7 items picked out and in the cart. The bill amount of Rs. 218 qualified for free delivery too with an additional 20% off for 1st time use, bringing it down to Rs. 172. Since I started early in the morning (7:30am), Delivery Now option was not available so I chose the earliest slot under Deliver Later. The delivery arrived around the committed time. I loved that I could pay by card at the time of delivery for a COD order. The delivery boy handed over the items and the only one that disappointed was the small bunch of bananas not wrapped or packaged separately. It had no indication via a sticker or otherwise of the weight and rate. I am not sure how the delivery condition would have been had I ordered multiple fruits and vegetables like I usually do.
So that was a day of shopping and receiving deliveries!
Before I get to my final verdict so to speak, a few generic thoughts for hyperlocal grocers:
- ensure basic consistency – sms alerts for order and delivery, email order statement/ invoice, physical invoice to tally at the time of receipt. It wasn’t a consistent experience today. Only one gave a printed invoice, only one sent sms alerts.
- the delivery person must ALWAYS carry change to the nearest couple of denominations. If a bill is Rs. 340, very likely that the customer will handover a 500 note. Be prepared for it.
- since you have decided to give a discount for the first order from a new customer, generously apply the discount on your own. Don’t hope that the customer forgets to key in the discount coupon code.
- for such location-based services, the delivery person must know the locality in and out. Asking for directions multiple times is a no-no.
My last thoughts:
- Big Basket still stands out for me for monthly groceries. I have a monthly list, smart list and recently purchased kind of lists and BB ensures I don’t miss anything each month. It’s very easy to pull out last month’s shopping list and add and subtract to it. Their range is also quite awesome. And I value the overall eco-friendly nature of bringing everything in plastic crates and leaving it on your table. No wasted paper or plastic bags. Am hearing that service is dipping off-late but they should just fix that quickly. I too had a couple of missed time-slots for delivery in this year.
- The three e-commerce biggies disappointed – Flipkart Nearby (no iOS app), Amazon Kirana (coverage and stock) and Snapdeal Instant (not really a grocer at all yet). Perhaps they are still ramping up or just want to say they are also in this segment.
- I was very pleasantly surprised by the App smoothness for Ola Store.
- I gave Peppertap another chance (via app this time) but again after a few smooth screens, I was hit with an ‘Oops, something went wrong, please try again.’
- The Grofers secondary focus on stores didn’t work for me. Otherwise it works well too.
- After my monthly shopping is done (typically 30-40 items), when I have an urgent need for a few items I would definitely use Ola Store or Zopnow. It’s a handy app to have for such situations.
- In the long run, not sure how sustainable this whole business of running around and picking up groceries for others is. Service issues are going to be aplenty. And as you can see, one experience is make or break. Many options to move on to.
Probably my longest post ever but I enjoyed this experiment and I hope you did gain from it too. Some of the glitches can be set aside as one-off but I think I’ve got the overall hyperlocal grocery shopping experience covered.
Now off to make some banana milkshake!!
Note: This is a 100% personal experiment. Views expressed and money spent are solely mine. No malice intended to any food item or corporate or anyone, frankly.
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