During this crucial time of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, many e-commerce grocery apps stepped up their efforts and ensured that people could order groceries from the comfort of their homes, without having to step out. Social media and community platform LocalCircles conducted a detailed survey to understand customer experience of buying groceries online. Interestingly, 80% of those who ordered groceries online during the lockdown did so for convenience without considering the price or selection, the survey has revealed.
One of the inputs from consumers has been that during the lockdown, many e-commerce grocery apps have increased prices by reducing the discounts or in many cases completely eliminating them. As a result, very few consumers ordered groceries using these apps because they were getting a deal, but used them because of the convenience of doorstep delivery and not having to step out.
With the nationwide lockdown, many families have decided to stay at home completely relying on platforms like Amazon Fresh & Prime, Big Basket, Grofers, Flipkart etc. placing orders for groceries online and some placing multiple orders every week. The survey revealed that 32% of online grocery shoppers placed one or more orders every week during the lockdown.
Regarding the key issue they faced when they purchased groceries online during the lockdown, 13% said high prices, 18% said poor quality, 8% said long time taken while 18% said selection. Another 43% said they did not have concerns and were happy ordering groceries online during the lockdown.
Consumers were also asked what category of products did they experience most quality issues with when ordering them during the lockdown. Fruits and vegetables came out to be the grocery category where consumers faced most quality issues while buying online with 38% having issues. 4% said milk & dairy, 10% said grains & spices, 17% said packaged foods while 8% said others. Another 23% did not have a quality concern.
Many consumers specifically have stated on LocalCircles about the below average quality of fruits and vegetables delivered via e-commerce grocery apps. This is an area that needs attention of both the e-commerce companies as well as FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and state food and consumer departments to ensure quality and have a consumer friendly redressal mechanism, according to the survey.
Availability levels of grocery items during lockdown continued to be a challenge with online grocery products, with only 58% consumers being able to get what they wanted via e-commerce apps in the LocalCircles survey on April 20. The percentage had slipped to 21% right before the start of lockdown when a lot of Indians did panic buying via e-commerce grocery apps, the survey says.
A lot of consumers used multiple e-commerce apps during the lockdown to order what they needed. When online grocery shoppers were asked whether e-commerce grocery apps were useful to them during the lockdown, 52% said yes while 45% responded in the negative. Another 3% did not have an opinion. In many parts of India, e-commerce grocery apps could not deliver groceries because of lack of manpower or due to restrictions imposed by local or state authorities during lockdown, the survey notes.
The survey received more than 39,000 votes from 220 districts across the country. While 63% respondents were males, 37% respondents were females. 58% respondents were from tier 1, 29% from tier 2 and 13% respondents were from tier 3 and beyond locations.
Many other platforms like food delivery also ventured into delivering essentials instead of only shipping cooked food to consumers during the lockdown. Similarly, many local e-commerce grocery apps or platforms emerged during the lockdown and facilitated home delivery of groceries to consumers, the survey states.
Overall, despite the challenges faced with local authorities, migration of labour, the e-commerce grocery platforms stepped up to serve the consumer during the COVID-19 lockdown, the survey notes. Based on the consumer conversations on LocalCircles, just like Work From Home and Video Conferences are here to stay as alternate models for work and meetings, ordering groceries online is also likely to become a habit for many. With restrictions slowly being eased out now, in the third phase of the lockdown, many consumers feel that the grocery delivery apps will play an important role in keeping people from visiting crowded markets, the survey concludes.