The 21st century food shopping experience is all about efficiently streamlining tasks. This is evident not just through significant investments in eCommerce, but also through the rise in delivery service offerings. Online food delivery is booming in particular — the number of Americans who have ordered food online has grown from 17 to 24 percent in the past year. With so many options available, I grew curious about the details differentiating each app’s respective shopping experience. I decided to order from a different app each day for four days, journaling my thoughts while munching on salad one day and sipping soup the next.
Convenience means comfort — especially for online food delivery
It was a Wednesday night, and I had ordered a soup from my favorite restaurant, eager to maximize my comfiness after a tiring day. After two respective days of UberEats and Postmates, I had settled into a pleasant routine of online food ordering.
When I saw that my “Dasher” (of the DoorDash app) had arrived, I summoned up the strength to pause my show, leave my couch, and walk to the door. After receiving my food, I collapsed back on the couch. Upon opening the bag, however, I was disappointed to find that there was no spoon for my soup. I sighed, paused Mad Men, turned on the lights, and made my way to the kitchen.
I thought back. Did I forget to indicate that I wanted utensils? Was there a field that suggested including them? Perhaps an “add note” section?
Pictured: my squash soup and the accompanying slices of bread. Peeking out in the top right is the infamous spoon from my kitchen.
Brand takeaway: My primary reason for ordering food delivery wasn’t just about convenience - I had a vision of curling up in front of a show in my pajamas, and treating myself to minimal movement and maximal indulgence. While the spoon debacle wasn’t catastrophic, it interrupted that vision. If delivery services can identify the true need-states they fulfil, they can better cater to them — and ensure that shoppers have the most seamless ordering experience as possible.
Trusting tech is hard.
Inputting one’s preferences on an app — without any human interaction — leaves room for doubt. What if the kitchen messes up my order or the app glitches? What if the driver doesn’t get my note to come up to the 8th floor of my office building?
I sat in my office’s lobby, this last question lingering in my mind. I saw on the Postmates tracking system that my driver was “here,” but I didn’t see him. Did my Postmate leave the food in the downstairs lobby? Was he in the elevator? Was he waiting for me to meet him outside? After a few minutes, I gave up, went down 8 floors, and saw my food waiting for me at the front desk. The receipt taped to my salad didn’t have the full address I wrote in the app, which included “AMP Agency, 8th floor.”
Brand takeaway: Two-way communication is key. As technologically advanced as today’s shopping experience is, there’s always room for error when relaying information. Shoppers will naturally worry about an app acting as a middleman between them and their food. To lessen this worry delivery services can assure the shopper that their unique details have been “seen” by their driver, maybe even sending them a notification of a “read receipt.”
It feels good to feel heard.
Scrolling through DoorDash’s restaurant options, I hoped to see the bahn mi sandwich cafe just a couple miles away. I searched for “Vietnamese.” It appeared, alongside a button that said “request,” suggesting an option to add the restaurant to DoorDash’s offerings. Wow, I thought. They care about what I want!
A screenshot of me single-handedly bettering Boston’s bahn mi delivery scene.
Brand takeaway: No reasonable customer expects for a food delivery app to mirror their every preference. A small gesture that acknowledges a shopper’s wants (accompanied with the hope of fulfilling them), validates the shopper. This subtle approach to customer satisfaction allows the shopper to feel both that their opinion matters, and that the app genuinely wishes to improve its service.
Like many consumers, I honed my preferences by trying multiple services. I like to think that I’m now qualified enough to assign (subjective) superlatives to each app’s respective customer experience.
- Best delivery time predictor: UberEats
Of all the apps, UberEats was the only one that didn’t adjust its delivery time, estimating the total cooking and delivery time very well. Would recommend for squeezing meals in between meetings.
- Best first-delivery perks: Doordash
I still don’t understand whether I stumbled upon some month-of-July promotion or if the first delivery fee is always waived. Regardless, my frugal self was pleased at this opportunity to save some money.
- Best notification experience: Grubhub
While some apps blasted my phone with notifications via app, email, and text, Grubhub let me manually input how I wished to be notified upon arrival of my food. I typed “please call when you’re outside” and my request was fulfilled.
A blank canvas for notification preferences
- Best delivery flexibility: Postmates
Free delivery if I join a “party?” By. All. Means. Postmates’s “party” option allows one’s delivery to be pooled with others in the area. The catch: delivery time could be as long as an hour. Without pressing appointments, party-ing is a lovely option to save on delivery costs.
Extrovert, introvert, dancer – or not – Postmates has a “party” for all.
- Most likely to use again: UberEats
A delivery fee cheaper than others, many restaurant options, and a familiar GPS format (I take the occasional Uber, so I’m biased), UberEats is my food delivery app of choice. Bonus perks: The UberRewards program. With every eligible meal and Uber ride, I get points that I can use for either.