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To entice buyers, online grocers target the taste buds

Varun Jain, The Economic Times

New Delhi, 2 March 2015

Want to cook an exotic dish just the way Sanjeev Kapoor does it? Gurgaon-based online grocer Meragrocer.com, which launched operations recently and is endorsed by the celebrity chef, will soon start offering a solution: you can order chef special recipe packs that contain all the ingredients in the same quantity that Kapoor uses, along with detailed cooking instructions.

Online grocers such as Meragrocer.com, BigBasket.com and LocalBanya.com are showcasing food recipes and blogs on their websites and selling all-in-one, do-it-yourself kits to engage the customer. They help the consumer pick the right ingredients at the right quantity at one go, to make their favourite food.

"These initiatives are more about sharing knowledge, ensuring consumer loyalty and creating a high brand recall," says Saurabh Chadha, co-founder and COO of meragrocer.com.

Bengaluru-based BigBasket.com is working on the same lines, too.

The way groceries are consumed have changed, says co-founder Vipul Parekh. Today there is a lot of interest in people wanting to try out new cuisine – once they know the recipe, they want to figure out how to cook it and start looking for ingredients. "We are servicing this need of our customers wherein they can see the recipe and then can buy the whole recipe on our site, instead of buying all the ingredients individually which is a difficult task," he says. "The idea is to give everything in the single box."

The importance of putting up recipes is to give the customers another way of shopping for grocery. According to Parekh, this is a channel which e-grocers are looking to exploit, and he is looking to build a full-fledged business around it. This trend is fueled also by cooking shows and food channels that are becoming increasingly popular, he says.

Godrej Nature’s Basket, the premium food retailer owned by the Godrej Group which has reportedly acquired online grocer ekstop.com, has a detailed recipe and food blog section. According to chief executive Mohit Khattar, the food blog and food facts section empowers consumers to learn about ingredients from the best in the business, while the recipe section not just shares easy recipes to recreate world food, but also enables customers to order all the ingredients simultaneously.

Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight, says in India grocery is a category that the customer is willing to explore and experiment with. So any retailer, physical or virtual, that can present new product suggestions frequently can also avoid price-based competition and can look at sustaining better margins, he says. "A great vehicle to do this is to present recipe ideas, especially of cuisines that are unfamiliar, that is from other parts of the country, or from other countries. This can help the retailer side-step commoditisation of their product and service offer."

LocalBanya.com relies more on food blogs than recipes to engage with customers. It has also put up content on the website explaining the use of various ingredients which are not common to Indian households. "While we are selling a lot of rare ingredients which many our customers might not have heard of or maybe they do not know their use or the health benefits associated with them, we thought we have the opportunity to create content around them and educate people and at the same time drive our sales," says co-founder and chief operating officer Rashi Choudhary.

(Published in The Economic Times.)

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