What has changed in delivery apps due to the pandemic? Three recommendations for them in 2021.

Usaria
6 min readJun 3, 2021

Exactly one year ago, we analyzed how 47 delivery apps adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic in the world. This comparative study reflected on their challenges, best practices, and tendencies, while they took on a fundamental role during the hygienic emergency that took everyone by surprise.

Evidently, we came to the conclusion that every decision and communication effort taken by these companies from ethical, empathic, and responsible perspectives, improved the user’s experience. These decisions showed the response capabilities of the apps and their ecosystems (affiliated businesses, providers, shoppers, delivery people, and users), as well as the strength or weakness of the links between the different actors.

Read the full report of this benchmark (2020), carried out by 13 companies associated with the UXalliance in 17 countries, and headed by Usaria.

This time, we decided to take 32 of these apps and respond to some questions. A year after this change –and still in the middle of a pandemic that’s affected 149 million people–, what is still constant and what has changed? Do these apps keep offering information about health and cleanliness protocols? Do they clearly communicate the sanitary measures taken to protect customers and delivery people? Do they still mention the pandemic? What has been learned from it?

We asked our allies all over the world to contact us regarding these questions. Below are the conclusions that stood out the most:

1. If your customers are still worried about the pandemic, let them know you are too:

31.3% of the apps stopped mentioning the pandemic.

While 56.3% of the apps mentioned the pandemic in 2021, it’s clear that things have changed, and this number can keep decreasing.

A year ago, we realized that 89% of the 47 studied apps referenced the hygienic emergency, without naming it directly. They avoided words such as “COVID-19”, “Coronavirus” and “pandemic”. Still, 69% of them had some form of prominent element in their home page about hygiene protocols, essential goods, or safety measures for customers and delivery people, and 67% of them had a specific statement about the topic.

Today we see that although 6.3% of the apps that did not use to mention it, started to do so, 31.3% decided it was not necessary anymore: this is the case for apps like Amazon Prime Now, Esselunga a casa and The Food Assembly in Italy, Konga in Nigeria, Jumia in Kenya, Happy Fresh in Indonesia, Instacart in the US, Rappi and Merqueo in Colombia, Cornershop and Walmart in México, among others.

“There is nothing explicit about COVID-19. Some features of the app were made easier, such as contactless payment. However, it seems as if they had removed any mention of the precautions to be taken (…), almost as if COVID-19 had already disappeared”.

About Instacart, USA

As of April 2021, a quick look shows us that these are applications in countries where the cases of contagion have not stopped increasing (with the exception of Nigeria, which with 156 new cases, is among the countries with the lowest rate of confirmed patients). Italy, for example, registers 12,694 new infections, although it exceeds 15 million people vaccinated. Colombia has its main cities on red alert and low hospital capacity, with more than 19,745 new cases.

As mentioned in last year’s report, the decision not to mention the pandemic impacts the way the app, as a responsible organization in its business ecosystem, is perceived. In times of crisis, this also means minimizing current consumer concerns. It’s important to note that apps from countries such as Australia, where restrictions were decreasing, also relaxed their actions towards the consumer.

2. The information that apps provide surrounding the pandemic must consider health and safety protocols at the origin of the order, not only at the delivery.

As seen in 2020, health and safety measures for customers, and then for delivery people, remain the most important information to be mentioned within the apps. In order of relevance, they are followed by information about contactless payments.

It is striking that in 2021, only 31,25% of the apps reference health and hygiene protocols in affiliated partners, such as restaurants and supermarkets. Without a doubt, this is vital information if a customer intends to buy from any of them.

This hasn’t changed much from last year. The low priority given to this issue through food delivery apps allows us to reflect on what is considered important for apps to convey to their customers, even today: Is it enough to mention that the person who delivers the order takes their protective and health measures? Is it enough to tell the user that their package can arrive at their doorstep without having to be near the delivery person? What does the customer prefer?

In 2020, we concluded that information about the pandemic is valuable if it is accessible and contextual. That is why examples such as Gojek in Indonesia -which offers all kinds of information against COVID within its navigation flow- contrasts with an application such as Woolworths in Australia or Thuisbezorgd in the Netherlands, which house all the information about COVID- 19 on their website and not within the app.

3. Using a mask and practicing social distancing is the least we can do, why not go the extra mile?

Within the 2020 worldwide trends, unsurprisingly, we were able to identify that the vast majority of the apps that we studied suggested to their delivery people the use of protection elements. The most frequent were masks. By 2021, from the 32 reviewed apps, only 56.3% still commit to this.

Now, beyond this or the fact that apps like Uber Eats in different countries do a good job of promoting the contactless delivery option, what are the apps currently offering to stand out and strengthen their ecosystem at a time when the situation still implies a time of crisis? Some apps have opted for empathic practices that advocate minimizing the risk of contracting COVID-19, alleviating economic shocks to their affiliated businesses, or simply supporting the community:

  • Gojek / GoFood (Indonesia) has badges to highlight the restaurants and delivery people who best follow health protocols.
  • Sainsbury’s (United Kingdom), at the beginning of 2021, warned about the difficulties that elderly and vulnerable people have in winter to make their purchases. For this reason, they encouraged clients and volunteers of the National Health System (NHS) to join the “Shopping for others” program.
  • Baemin (South Korea) offers conferences to small business owners. They share knowledge about business management and the pandemic. On the other hand, because the demand for orders has doubled, it has promoted the option of picking up orders in store. In this way, they hope to alleviate the excessive workload imposed on delivery people.
  • 11St. (South Korea) has diversified its policies to reduce shipping fees charged to customers and small businesses that are struggling. This, for example, has made it possible to use the public postal service in certain cases.
  • Albert Heijn (The Netherlands) established special times so that groups of people at risk can buy with priority. It also gives the possibility of donating to people in vulnerable situations when ordering online.

Without a doubt, food delivery apps still have a long way to go and much to learn in the face of the pandemic. Apps like Doordash, for example, have come under scrutiny from their own customers for the way they charge local stores and restaurants. It’s not to be overlooked. A restaurant in the United States can spend up to $ 35,000 in annual service fees, paid to platforms of this nature.

Despite the fact that many of these apps have managed to double or considerably increase their sales in 2020, the decisions they take that harm their affiliated businesses or delivery people make them susceptible to public attention. Little by little, they risk the same users being forced to call the restaurant directly, just like in the old days.

Consumers continue to celebrate the actions of companies that look beyond just their own benefit. It is clear that the user experience and their purchase decisions are not limited only to the moment of choosing, paying and receiving the lunch of the day through a cell phone.

Remember that you can read here the complete benchmark report, carried out by 13 companies associated with the UXalliance in 17 countries and led by Usaria.

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Usaria

Consultora en investigación y diseño estratégico • Miembros de la @UXAlliance 📍México📍Colombia · http://www.usaria.mx/