Quick commerce growing quickly
In the UK, in June 2021, according to IGD, quick grocery commerce was forecast to more than double in 12 months given the 13 per cent of the UK population already using quick commerce and a further 22 per cent professing interest in it.2
In the US, according to a November 2021 Coresight Research report, quick commerce will generate US$20-US$25 million in a year.
In Western Europe, in September 2021 Euromonitor numbered the quick commerce companies operating at 30, with most of them established within the preceding 12 months.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the quick-commerce market size stood at US$9 billion in 2020 and is estimated, Statista reports, to grow by 24 per cent annually, to reach US$20 billion by 2024, and US$47 billion by 2030.
This growth is generating significant venture capital and financial market interest. The US’ Gopuff, estimated to have a 70 per cent share of quick commerce there, is valued at US$15 billion, Turkey’s Getir at $7.5 billion, and Europe’s Gorillas at $3 billion, Coresight reported in October 2021. Many of the quick-commerce startups and scaleups are at various stages of funding, including Germany’s Flink, London’s Jiffy, Dija, Weezy and Zapp, and France’s Cajoo. Pakistan’s Airlift raised US$85 million in Series B, and the same country’s Krave Mart announced a $6 million pre-seed round for 10-minute deliveries in less than a month of operating.
A rose by any other name
So, what is this quick commerce that’s growing so fast?
Defined as delivery in under an hour and often less than 30 minutes from order placement, quick commerce, also known as on-demand delivery or instant-needs fulfilment, is e-commerce on steroids. Originating from foodservice and takeaway restaurant delivery, it matured into on-demand (and often ‘late night’) convenience deliveries for liquor, tobacco and convenience food with limited product ranges. Think the (now Woolworths-owned) Jimmy Brings. The UK alone has dozens of such companies.
Now quick commerce has moved into broader groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, with operators offering anywhere from 150 to 2000 SKUs to choose from. Some players are offering a hyperlocal model covering small neighbourhood areas where deliveries can be made in as little as 10 minutes. Obviously, this requires a large ‘dark store’ network, as the shorter the promised delivery time the more dark stores required in the operator’s network. Quick-commerce operators are thus building dark stores and micro-fulfilment centres at a rapid rate.
There are a number of operating models:
- Ultra-fast pure plays: often venture-capital funded, with their own warehouse, dark store network, neighbourhood focus, and high-speed delivery in under 15 minutes. Example: Gorillas (which operates in seven European countries and the UK), France’s Cajoo, Tunisia’s Lamma, Weezy, Fridge No More, Dija.
- Third-party providers and aggregators: partnering with traditional and/or large retailers. Example: Woolworths and UberEats partnership in Australia, announced mid 2021. Amazon and Flipkart using India’s 12 million-plus traditional mom-and-pop kirana stores for 30-minute fulfilment.
- Legacy retailers enhancing their own capabilities: Examples: Ocado’s Zoom, Sainsbury’s Chop Chop. Coles recently announced drone delivery trials in Canberra in early March.
- Delivery providers expanding their capabilities into grocery – particularly from restaurant delivery. Examples: Germany’s Delivery Hero, India’s Swiggy launch of Instamart.
It should be noted that quick commerce has always been a feature in some markets in the developing world. India’s kiranas, Indonesia’s warungs and the Philippines’ sari-saris have long been doing same-day or much sooner deliveries by bicycle, based on orders received from their local customers over the phone or text. Now they’re doing it via app, particularly in Latin America, where WhatsApp is used in ‘chat commerce’ to message orders to the local corner store for immediate delivery.
How are consumers using quick commerce?
Because shopping basket sizes are limited to what can physically go on the back of a bicycle or motorcycle, this limits the role of the channel to top up, dinner tonight, craving, and emergency shopping missions, unless the operator shifts to larger delivery vehicles. The fewer products consumers select, the faster the pick and delivery times. This is the antithesis of traditional e-commerce encouragement of larger baskets through minimum spends for low-price or free delivery.
Retail analyst IGD’s 2021 UK report states the most common shopping missions for quick commerce are food to go, top-up shops and dinner tonight. However, more than seven in ten shoppers in IGD’s study use or are interested in trying quick commerce and said it could also be used to pick up last-minute items for entertaining and socialising occasions.
Despite occasion and basket-size limitations, Gorillas says it has seen basket size increase as shoppers gain confidence with the platform, service levels and quality of goods provided.
Speed may not be the factor driving consumer uptake. An October 2021 Coresight survey of US consumers determined that consumers value low fees and competitive pricing more highly than speed of delivery. So five minutes here or there may not make a meaningful difference to consumers. In late 2021, Australia’s Voly offered a flat delivery fee of $2 for a range of 1500 SKUs and delivery in 15 minutes, where Geezy Go offered a flat delivery fee of $3.99 for delivery within 20 minutes.
Given the proliferation of operators, consolidation is likely as the market matures through a lack of differentiation and profitability, due to minimal consumer loyalty from shoppers switching between apps and providers. Profitability depends on high volume and customer density, potentially limiting the geographic opportunity to high-density urban areas. This may also result in operators beginning to charge higher delivery fees.
Expansion beyond grocery categories such as into fashion and beauty, is likely. Beauty stalwart Estée Lauder partnered with Uber for one-hour delivery in May last year. In Western Europe, players like Glovo have been expanding their range to include electronics and furniture. Pakistan’s Pandamart offers 20,000 SKUs including things like hair straighteners, and the quick-commerce offshoot now accounts for a fifth of parent company Foodpanda’s sales.
Finally, quick commerce can even further leverage the localisation trend by tailoring product ranges at the neighbourhood level. Jokr, which provides 15-minute delivery in New York City neighbourhoods, is working directly with local brands to showcase local product.
It’s only in its infancy in the Western world, but quick commerce is already a wild ride that looks set to continue in the short to medium term.