Zomato is cutting 300 jobs. Dazo has shut down. Tinyowl is laying off employees. Spoonjoy is scaling back operations.
It doesn’t seem like a good time for food delivery apps (I am purposely staying away from the much debated term, “food tech”).
As someone who has spent tens of thousands of rupees over the past few months across most of the major food delivery apps as a regular customer, I hope this post helps these companies get a glimpse into what a regular customer expects while using such apps.
#1: Less is more. Consider the paradox of choice
Whenever I open Swiggy, I spend around 20 minutes trying to figure out what to order. Sometimes, the sheer volume of options gets overwhelming and I end up choosing to go out and eat from a nearby restaurant.
The beauty of Dazo when they launched (earlier Tapcibo) was that they had curated meals. It didn’t take me much time to order food. In fact, I was so happy with the curated selection, I converted almost the entire office to Dazo users. It became the default app for ordering food in our office.
However, Dazo started losing its curation focus and started adding more food choices. Last time I checked before it shut down, it had gone from curated 4 or 5 meals to at least 75 options across three different tabs.
Less is more.
Give us a curated choice of food. Maybe ask some questions about our food preferences while setting up the app and show recommendations based on that. For e.g. I always order rice and some non-veg curry. If the app knew that, it could help me significantly reduce the mental strain of choosing what to eat.
#2: Delivery time matters – especially during lunch
The sooner you can deliver lunch, the better it is. Most of the time, we end up ordering when we feel hungry. So making sure that the delivery is fast is very important.
Delivery in under 30 minutes is great. 45 minutes is acceptable. 1 hour or more is going to be a stretch.
#3: Use GPS location instead of having to explain the route
Being in Bangalore, it’s sometimes difficult to navigate people to our place, especially if you don’t live in one of those fancy apartments. This becomes all the more difficult if you can’t speak the local language.
Unless the delivery boy has come to my place several times, I receive a call from them every time I place an order asking where my house is located.
Most apps require location to show the restaurants available. Why not use the location to deliver the food?
#4: If you are collecting payments upfront, ensure that your listed price matches that of the restaurant
This has happened a number of times.
I place an order. Delivery boy picks up the food. Asks me if I paid online and then asks me to pay the balance amount because the restaurant has increased its price.
Interestingly, I never had to pay the difference. The company has always picked up tab for the difference. But it involves uncomfortable conversation where the delivery boy has to make a couple of calls and then say it’s OK, I don’t need to pay anything more.
Ensure that the prices you mention in your app is reflective of the restaurants price. At least, mention when the price was last updated.
I can understand customer centric practices where you take the hit. But as a loyal customer, I do not feel right about it.
#5: In-house kitchens are preferred for lunch
While most of us don’t mind eating out from restaurants once in a while, regular order from restaurants is not something that we look forward to.
That’s where Dazo was so great in the beginning. They used to have in-house/home-made food at affordable rates. The portion was good and the quality of the food was also nice.
We’d also prefer to have separate apps/tabs for homemade food and restaurant food if you have a hybrid model.
#6: Give consumers more options when you are running a subscription business
I tried out for a month a salad subscription. While it was good in the beginning, they sometimes ended up giving burgers for lunch instead of salads.
Also, since the menu was random each day, there was no way to say no if a certain day’s food was not to your liking.
We would have continued the salad subscription for a couple of months at least if they had given us a set of options to cycle through instead of their own selection (for e.g. I do not like pasta related salads; so let me opt out of those).
#7: Don’t assume that slowly reducing the quantity of food over time will go unnoticed
I remember this tea shop vendor near my house. When he started operations, he used to give really big vada (South Indian dish) with a very small hole in the middle. Couple of months later, the size of the vada came down and the size of the hole increased.
It was obvious. He assumed that people would be OK with the change or it would go unnoticed. Well, it’s not Facebook feed for people to forget how it looked like when a change is rolled out- it’s food!
Couple of subscription services I have seen use the same tactic. They reduce the quantity of food delivered to increase profits.
Even if our eyes get deceived, our body’s natural alert mechanism (hunger), will detect this.
#8: Delivery charges are OK
Your business needs money to survive. We understand that. It’s OK to charge a nominal delivery fee.
There’s a lot of debate with India being a price conscious nation and that we are not willing to pay for delivery. I doubt the unwillingness to pay extra because most people pay exorbitant rates at movie theatres for popcorns and soda.
At some point when the venture funds run out, you’ll need to start charging for deliveries to make your business viable. So might as well target people who’d be willing to pay for it from the beginning.
I have seen order sheets filled with orders as low as Rs 30 (when Swiggy did not have a minimum).
#9: Club orders and deliver them together
There have been many instances where I order for me and a couple of my colleagues, food for most people come in one batch, and we have to wait for a long time for the next part of the order to come in (often times by another delivery boy).
This happens with aggregators that allow selection of food from multiple outlets in a single order.
As much as possible, club orders and deliver them in one go. This also means less time spent on the phone guiding the delivery boy or waiting in the lobby to collect orders.
#10: Automated recurring orders
Sometimes, due to work, we’ll forget to order lunch on time. It would be great if the food ordering app has a feature where we can set a predefined menu and kitchen preference for automated orders.
At the predefined time, the app shows a notification and allows us to change the order if required. Else, it goes through and we get the food delivered on time.
Food delivery apps are great. The convenience they have brought to consumers is unparalleled. Share with me your thoughts on what other things food delivery apps can do to create a stellar customer experience.
What do you expect from a food app?
[About the author: Adarsh Thampy is the co-founder and CEO of the marketing automation platform for WordPress, LeadFerry. You can connect with him on Twitter @conversionchamp.]