After the very generous launch of the Checkers Six 60 model in November 2019, Spar is the last of the four major supermarket retailers to enter the on-demand delivery space.
Pick n Pay partnered with Bottles, which focused exclusively on wine supplies during nationwide lockdowns. It later bought the business (in October 2020) and renamed it PnP as soon as possible! In July last year. On Tuesday it unveiled a partnership with Teklat Group’s Mr Delivery service, expanding its grocery service to meet demand.
Woolworths was relatively late, with its service in December 2020, Woolies Dash, which remained on trial.
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And now, finally, Spar has Spar2U. In February, the Durban-headquarters retailer said that “the platform will be available at a group of stores in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg by the end of March 2022”.
Pilot (retailer specific details) is currently only available in one store, Superspar Sunhill (and nearby liquor store tops).
Delivery is available within a 5km radius of the store (across Sunhill as well as parts of Waterfall, Pulshof and Rivonia) and the price is R35, the market price set by Sixty60.
Instead of using motorcycles, Spar2U uses electric scooters (contracted from Skynet), like the services of its three competitors. Minimum order R100.
The process of browsing and selecting mobile apps, well, well. In fact, Spar has embedded a web store running on the Shopify platform in an app wrapper. It has a handful of web stores that shop online at select stores across the country.
It doesn’t make much of a difference, but the experience is nowhere near as glamorous as the three apps from its competitors. To put it bluntly, it’s as basic as sixty-six years ago.
At the moment, it seems that most (if not all) of the retailer’s national or regional promotions are available on the app, but its popular Spar Reward Discount is not available. Users will need to register a new account, even if they have already registered for the Spar Rewards (a completely different platform).
From last weekend’s experience, it seems there are still some issues with integration with the store stock management system. For example, no large bottles (1 liter-plus) of ‘ordinary’ coke were found on Sunday. The Sunday Times featured “Stock End”. In the tops (for which the user has to set their address from scratch so that they are able to change the store), a case of Lion Lager R15.50 (single price) can be added to a cart.
Searching for items works well and you are (currently) able to order a certain number of items from the bakery (for example four bread rolls). It is not measurable and will certainly return.
The store also offers popular hot and ready meals (including the average price for each display). You can select an alternate item (if someone’s first choice is unavailable) per product in your cart. A delivery period needs to be selected before finalizing an order.
Payment was fast (this would be expected on a Shopify platform) and a 10% ‘surcharge’ is temporarily reserved on the card “to cover additional costs when replacing potential products”.
An order confirmation is sent via push notification as well as email. Once the order is packed and out for delivery, another notification is sent.
There is a form to send a message to the driver but this pilot has no driver tracking or any way to communicate or send a message to the driver in real time.
The order was placed at 09:49 on Sunday and left the store at about 10:12. Delivery takes 20 minutes, very reasonable because the store is an 11-minute drive away. The order has now arrived in a typical branded brown paper bag (again, popular by Sixty60). Items (milk, eggs, chocolate, pretzels and rolls) were carefully packaged. The driver said he made three deliveries (including this order) on Sunday morning.
So, Spar2U works. You can order items, pay for them and have them delivered. But these are the bets on the table now.
Some consumers may switch to the app for convenience, but to really adopt Spar, the app has to work to get the actual user experience in the app where it is glamorous. It will want to better curate the selections on the home screen (‘Top Up Shop’, ‘Pantry Basics’).
The link between the customer and the driver needs to be as close to real-time as possible, as Sparr must have already found it in this pilot. There is no way to flag an issue with an order (probably someone has to call the store).
Spar’s decentralized model where each store is independently owned and operated (and members belong to the Spar Guild) is a barrier to such services – primarily because Spar does not offer extensive online shopping (excluding a handful of stores, each has its own online shop). .
Judging from the amount of promotional material in store, it looks like the next pilot is ready to start at Spar Pineslopes. It needs to get more stores on this pilot as soon as possible and it (as well as its store owners) must accept the fact that something is going to go wrong.
A dozen deliveries (an estimate) from a single store per day will not yield meaningful results.
The power of the spar (at least in the eyes of most buyers) is precisely the decentralized model – man Love Their neighbor Spar. The group should capitalize on that energy as much as possible with Spar2U.
Otherwise, it is going to face an omnipotent battle to maintain market share, especially in the face of a very strong checker and resurgent peak n pay in urban areas.