Here at WEUNGRY, we are lucky to be spending time with exceptional entrepreneurs starting their Alternative Delivery Platforms (ADPs). The meetings are usually very exciting. The entrepreneurs see a clear business opportunity, they have plenty of unorthodox ideas on how to organize the business, and… they are knowingly getting into direct competition with on-demand delivery giants (Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Delivery Hero, Glovo, Wolt etc).
So naturally, there is some hesitation about how exactly they can win when they are competing against tons of marketing dollars. They won't be able to give incentives that big, so how do they win? Well, there is a way. And we are confident that this way is through communities.
In recent years community became a bit of a buzzword in marketing. The big guys, global delivery platforms invest in creating and managing communities, they call delivery riders and restaurants - partners, they organize various activities, give out perks. By investing in communities around their platforms, they try to make merchants, riders, and consumers feel that as if they belong together, and work towards the same shared goal.
But here is a thing with communities – if it's not authentic, it won't work, regardless of the money invested in it. And lately, we have been seeing proof of that. Communities formed around the big delivery platforms turned out to be uniting much better when riders and restaurants join forces in fights against these platforms. We saw Deliveroo riders strike over pay and conditions, restaurants filing a class-action complaint against Grubhub, Uber, and DoorDash fees, and many other expressions of community power. It is just not the kind of expression that the platforms want.
And this is exactly where the opportunity is for the Alternative Delivery Platforms. These new guys may not have the budgets the big guys do. But they do have an opportunity to leverage this tremendous energy and form authentic communities around themselves. This can turn relatively small local businesses into extremely powerful organizations, that don't just deliver food and goods. These organizations make a statement, and they make people using them, contribute to the shared cause, and feel good about themselves.
So, we think that every entrepreneur starting the new Alternative Delivery Platform should turn it into a community platform and this will be way more effective than investing modest marketing budgets into yet another campaign on Facebook or Google.
Below is a couple of things that can be done:
1. Partnership with merchants.
It can for sure go beyond just bringing merchants onto the platform and calling them partners. The very structure of the platform-merchant agreement can imply co-ownership and true collaboration. One of the possible structures is a cooperative, but there are more ways to organize a fair business. As a result, merchants would feel confident enough to direct their audience to this Alternative Platform. This can be a mere sticker with the QR code on their doors, flyers in the delivery orders, logo on the menu. These simple steps immediately cut the marketing costs. And while the big guys heavily spend on Google and Facebook ads to reach out to the right audience, the ADP gets to it for free. This saves money and can help to make merchant commissions much more attractive.
2. Partnership with riders.
Any marketplace creates a connection between sellers and buyers. A delivery marketplace is unique because it creates this connection via riders. While riders may not be able to help attract the new audience to the Alternative Delivery Platform, they can help increase the number of repeat orders. The riders can engage with customers they meet and explain to them the nature of it and how it is different from all the other apps. Needless to say, the drive to engage does not emerge from getting perks, but from owning what they do. So again, the true partnership should be at the foundation of the agreement.
3. Partnership with the municipality.
Cities are aware of the difficult situation in the delivery market. So should listen and they can for sure help to spread the word. For example, such a thing as a city-sanctioned food market for launching the Alternative Delivery Platform would work great.
4. Partnership with citizens.
Consumers are not really aware of the challenging agreements the merchants and riders have with the big platforms. So they need to be educated about the difference between the giants and Alternative Platforms. This is better done via local press, community organizers, and neighborhood Facebook group moderators. When reaching out to citizens, it is important not to forget to give them an easy way to signup for the future Alternative service.
So in our view partnership and community organizing are key. And to all the entrepreneurs at the beginning of their way, we recommend focusing on that and not on traditional marketing.