Delivering Online Orders is the New Normal
By Angela Altass
Online ordering and delivery have become the new normal as the world battles a global pandemic and people are spending more time in their homes.
“COVID-19 has forever changed the way people shop for their groceries and goods,” says a statement from Instacart. “As shopping behaviours have shifted, Instacart has become part of the household rhythm and a lifeline for people across North America. We are operating at a different scale than we were at the start of the pandemic and, as a result of the adjustments we’ve made and fine-tuned, we’re well positioned to safely and effectively meet any rising demand associated with additional COVID-19 waves.”
Instacart’s shopper community grew from 200,000 at the beginning of March 2020 to more than 500,000 shoppers today and is available to 70 per cent of Canadian households. Since March 2020, Instacart launched more than 15 products designed to meet the changing needs of customers and shoppers. In October 2020, Instacart announced a new senior support service, a high-touch support offering for customers over the age of 60, designed to help seniors more easily adopt online grocery delivery.
Instacart delivers from nearly 45,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in the United States and Canada. They added more than 15,000 new stores to their marketplace since the start of 2020.
Third party delivery companies have realized that convenience stores and their customers are looking for ways to participate in this online order and delivery reality. In response to this, in September 2020, Inabuggy launched Inabuggy-Mart, which offers quick delivery of convenience store items, such as flowers, produce, meats and other items.
Inabuggy-Mart is an extension of Inabuggy’s existing online grocery delivery service and app, which offers customers delivery of items from grocery stores, specialty food retailers, foodservice providers and alcohol retailers.
Inabuggy-Mart offers customers hyperlocal delivery from neighbourhood convenience stores, flower shops and butchers. It is accessible through both the Inabuggy app and website. Customers can shop in the online convenience store marketplace similar to how they shop from Inabuggy’s other partners.
“The expansion of Inabuggy’s retailer network in neighbourhoods across Canada gives customers the ability to support small, local businesses,” says. Julian Gleizer, CEO and founder of Inabuggy. “For store owners, Inabuggy-Mart is providing a more localized approach that gives them more exposure to customers in their area.”
Across Canada, Inabuggy offers delivery of over 700,000 SKUs through its’ website and app from over 50 retail partners in over 200 regions. Delivery from Inabuggy-Mart is available seven days a week in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. The delivery fee is $9.99 per order with no minimum. There is no fee associated with the onboarding process for retailers. Inabuggy deploys its’ neighbourhood personal shoppers to pick up, pack and deliver orders directly to customers’ doorsteps.
“We’ve seen significant increase and growth since launching c-stores, especially for snacks and beverages,” says Gleizer. “Inabuggy-Mart was launched to support family-owned and independent shops during the pandemic while giving customers quick, convenient access to fresh local produce and meats. Onboarding with Inabuggy-Mart provides c-store customers with convenience and delivery in as little as 30 minutes. This is a significant advantage for convenience stores, allowing last-mile solutions to existing and new customers. Having a delivery option, especially during the pandemic where there has been an increase in demand for home delivery, allows for a store to expand its’ reach and cater to the shift in customer needs.”
Aligning with a third-party delivery company, such as Inabuggy-Mart, allows convenience stores to expand their offerings, says Gleizer.
“Many small family-owned and independent shops don’t have the resources to make deliveries,” he notes. “Inabuggy-Mart provides a localized approach that gives them more exposure to customers in the area.”
SnapShop has established relationships with convenience stores in downtown Toronto to offer speedy delivery to their customers and are looking to expand to other geographic locations in the future.
“Convenience store items are usually needed throughout the day,” says Jessica Stein, public relations manager, SnapShop. “There was a shortage in real time delivery services for convenience stores and we wanted to help small businesses boost their sales with real time delivery. We wanted to provide customers with the ability to order from their local stores without having to wait more than 45 minutes as is the usual case with grocery stores. We do not charge any fees to the stores and we also do not take any commission, allowing the stores to retain their profit margins.”
Providing delivery until 2 a.m. seven days a week, SnapShop’s customer base keeps growing.
“In Canada, where it is cold, it is important for convenience stores to offer a delivery service,” says Stein. “A lot of store owners were telling us that their customers were asking about delivery; however, the store owners were not able to facilitate the delivery along with payments. SnapShop was created to fulfill those customers’ needs and help convenience stores with delivery services. Stores get paid in real-time. We manage their online inventory, customer service and provide them access to drivers.”
SkipTheDishes provides options to Canadians as they continue to stay at home and practice social distancing, says a spokesperson for the company.
“Our partners have the option to use their own staff to make deliveries while leveraging Skip’s technology and customer base to drive orders to their business, or they can take advantage of Skip’s delivery network to have orders delivered safety through contactless delivery right to the customer’s door,” says the SkipTheDishes spokesperson.
Largely known for restaurant and foodservice deliveries, SkipTheDishes reports that it has worked to support restaurant partners throughout the pandemic, implementing a package to provide support in affected areas of the country where dining rooms have closed.
Their support package includes a 25 per cent commission fee for local, independent restaurant partners, zero per cent commission fee for the first 30 days for all independent restaurant partners, a 10.5 per cent commission rate to any restaurant partner looking to utilize their own staff to facilitate delivery while leveraging SkipTheDishes technology and customer base, and the continuation of a restaurant tipping initiative, which has seen over $1.2 million in donations from SkipTheDishes customers go directly to local restaurants.
Quebec’s WeCook, which has seen sales increase 300 per cent over the past year, is being supported by large institutional investors. The company, which offers home-delivered meals, recently announced the completion of a $7 million round of financing led by Desjardins Capital. The funding will accelerate WeCook’s growth in Quebec and Ontario. Private investors also took part in the financing alongside National Bank’s Technology and Innovation Banking Group, which provided debt financing.
“I’m excited about the interest generated by this round of financing as WeCook becomes even more successful in Quebec and sees tremendous sales growth in Ontario, less than a year after we launched our operations in that province,” says Etienne Plourde, founder and CEO of WeCook. “We’re staying focused on our goal of becoming the largest company in Canada’s home-delivered, ready-to-eat meals sector, which includes expansion into Western Canada in 2022.”
In recent years, investments have enabled WeCook to build a robust operating structure that has allowed it to respond effectively to the increase in sales. The company’s business model is well suited to the current transition to e-commerce in Canada’s fast-growing online food delivery market, which is valued at nearly $5 billion annually, according to a WeCook press release. Founded in 2013, WeCook serves close to 20,000 customers through its’ online sales platform and prepares nearly 2.5 million meals a year.
7-Eleven is an example of a convenience chain that has responded to increased consumer interest in having items delivered to their homes. A 2020 press release from 7-Eleven Canada notes that 7-Eleven delivery is offered in over 475 stores through participating meal delivery apps, such as Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes and DoorDash. A 2020 press release from 7-Eleven Inc. in Texas notes that it was adding Uber Eats, Grubhub and Instacart to its delivery portfolio in the United States.
“When 7-Eleven began offering delivery in 2017, we certainly didn’t foresee a pandemic accelerating on-demand ordering platforms from convenient to essential,” says 7-Eleven chief operating officer Chris Tanco. “This year, we’ve doubled our delivery footprint and quadrupled our daily delivery orders because customers know they can count on us for their necessities in about 30 minutes.”
Wherever you are located, online ordering and delivery has become a new normal. As COVID-19 continues to place restrictions on life as we know it, the number of people utilizing delivery options continues to increase and businesses of all sizes look for ways to fit delivery into their daily transactions.
“Our customers crave convenience now more than ever,” says Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven president of digital and head of delivery. “Today, that may mean ordering in more frequently because they’re staying home and avoiding crowds. But, it could also mean delivering Slurpee drinks to the beach or ice to a socially-distanced backyard barbecue. These extraordinary times have accelerated our efforts to get the products to our customers as safely as possible.”