So Singapore finally has online grocers. This is the end of an era I tell you. Gone are my days of carrying flour sacks to mama shops, or seeing the milkman wander past with his actual cow. “Uh, Ryan, you were born in the 80’s.” Yeah, but I wax nostalgic about small business. Things move too fast these days, like this new fangled “Internet Groceries” thing, which might just take over:
What is Online Grocery Shopping?
Online grocery shopping means buying your groceries from the Internet, as opposed to visiting a store. You fill out the orders on a website, pay online, and the stuff is delivered to you.
In America, this is already common practice. That’s what happens when you live in a big country, and your definition of “nearby” matches an NS man’s definition of “route march”. But this is Singapore, where most of us are just 10 minutes from the nearest grocer. So…
Why is Online Grocery Shopping Catching On in Singapore?
Good question. I e-mailed Mr. Roger Egan, co-founder of local online grocer RedMart.
Redmart, for those of you who don’t know, is a fairly new start-up service. They sell and deliver groceries island-wide, and they’ve been growing their customer base…fast.
“Initially, we thought that expats would be the early adopters,” Roger says, “They’re used to online groceries in their home country, so we thought they’d constitute the majority of our customers. We even catered our product selection to expats at first.
We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that locals value their time just as much – even those living HDBs. Now, about 50% of our customers are local. We’ve added local products that our customers have suggested.”
Some of the main reasons Singaporeans like online groceries are:
- It Saves Time
- No Setting Foot in the Store
- Beats Sending Out the Domestic Help and Children
- Competitive Pricing
1. It Saves Time
Peter Quek, who only order groceries online, says:
“To me the biggest draw is I don’t have to queue. In Singapore, all the supermarkets are always crowded; I feel like I am really wasting precious time when queuing. It’s even worse because I do the shopping on weekends; just the days when I want to quickly go home and rest.”
Our high number of dual income families should appreciate this. The last thing working couples want is to spend weekends shuffling past a checkout counter.
2. No Setting Foot in the Store
When was the last time you went to a supermarket, and bought exactly what you needed, nothing more?
If you said anything besides “never”, I don’t believe you. Singaporeans are not wired that way. We can go in looking for one tomato, and come out with enough food to feed three developing nations for a year.
A physical store is laid out so we pass every aisle, thus maxing out temptation (and our credit cards). It’s different from online groceries, where we see only what we search for. A website might also present alternatives, but at least we’re not overwhelmed by a million products screaming “Bulk buy!”
Also, our kids aren’t browsing the store with us. So we won’t be nagged into buying candy, new cereals, or related diabetes enhancers.
Currently, online grocers like RedMart offers free delivery. For RedMart, this applies to orders of $75 or above (For anything less, delivery costs $10). Last I checked, the beats the heck out of paying cab fare.
Roger also mentions that RedMart delivers seven days a week , and you can choose a two hour slot between 10am and 10pm. Place the order before 10am, and you can get same day delivery.
Yes, I’m aware big chain supermarkets like Cold Storage can deliver as well. But the difference is speed: Large chains tend to deliver on the following day. This is probably due to the size of the customer base. My guess is that sites like RedMart are smaller, so their deliveries are predictably faster.
(But Roger points out that RedMart is fast not because they’re smaller, but because of their efficient supply chain!)
4. Beats Sending Out the Domestic Help and Children
I asked Roger why we wouldn’t just send out our maids and children to fetch groceries.
“About 45% of our customers have maids. When we asked them why they use RedMart, they told us that maids can only follow instructions. Most don’t take advantage of special promotions and you don’t get to see or try new products.
These customers said that since it is as easy as a few clicks and it’s delivered to your door, they’d rather do it themselves. It’s as easy as “Click. Click. Done.”
5. Competitive Pricing
There doesn’t seem to be an added cost for the convenience. According to Roger, RedMart’s prices are “less than Cold Storage, about the same as NTUC”.
I did a quick snoop. For contrast:
- Beverages were indeed cheaper. 200 grams of Nescafe Gold were $13.95 from Cold Storage, $13.55 from FairPrice, and RedMart $13.10.
- Johnson’s Ant-Mosquito Baby Lotion was $9.15 at Cold Storage, and $7.60 in RedMart.
- Colgate has way more variations than is necessary. But the pattern repeated: About a dollar cheaper in FairPrice and RedMart.
Mind you, there are other factors with regard to price. For example, Cold Storage has a rewards program, and credit cards tend to have better benefits for big chains (Cold Storage, Giant, etc.) So I’m not claiming that sites like RedMart are cheaper; simply that the convenience has no added price tag.
So this week, maybe try ordering your groceries instead of hitting the stores. What’s the harm?
Do you shop for groceries online? Comment and tell us why!
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