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Online grocery in the Philippines: The time to act is now

The spread of COVID-19 has significantly altered business models everywhere in the world, with the Philippines no exception. The current lockdown in the country has meant a rethink of how companies go about their everyday operations.

Essential businesses, those selling things like fresh produce, meat, household essentials, and pharmaceutical products, are mandated to remain open but must also adjust to the new normal. 

After all, every citizen wants to keep out of harm’s way and keep the risk of infections as low as possible. Having said that, people will still continue to buy products that they need for day-to-day living. The happy medium is to facilitate these transactions in a risk-free manner.

Luckily, online channels can help mitigate this risk to a considerable degree. In the past, retail businesses had the luxury of allowing customers to visit the premises and spend hours scouring the shelves to find what they need. That, at least temporarily, should be avoided as most of the world moves towards contactless delivery and payment.

If you’re an existing retailer in the Philippines but new to selling items online, then Shopify can simplify this process for you. Once you set up your online store, your customers can safely browse your products from the comfort of their homes, pay for them using a number of payment methods, and select a time to pick up the order.

This way you minimize the exposure of your staff and wait times for your customers, while maximizing convenience. Embedded options like live chat mean your clientele can inquire about product availability and expected restocking dates without having to jam your customer support lines.

Has this been done before?

On-demand grocery startups are fairly well-known across the world. Many are powered on the Shopify platform as it allows seamless integration of order tracking, delivery, payment, and customer support functions.

For example, Urberry has built a highly successful online grocery company assisted by Shopify. It used Google Adwords and Facebook ads to help get the word out to prospective customers. After which, it relied on discount and loyalty apps from the Shopify app marketplace to help convert one-time buyers into loyal fans.

In the founder’s own words: “We have been able to build a very personalized experience where customers can interact with their shopper in real-time as well as track their progress on a map.”

The opportunity during the pandemic is vast. Your potential audience doesn’t need to be educated on the merits of online grocery pickup or delivery. They’re already eager for such solutions, mindful of large crowds or tight spaces. 

Hence, you won’t need to invest a lot in building brand awareness and your customer acquisition cost will be far lower than other ecommerce verticals.

How will it work?

“Pickup at store”, also known as “contactless pickup” or “curbside pickup” means customers are able to buy from your assortment online, park in a designated area, and have a store associate guide them towards their order. 

Since all orders are handled online, there’s no payment done on-site. Plus, customers have to select a pickup time window, so you’re prepared in advance for their arrival. 

Everyone stays safe — your staff and your customers.

Who else is doing this in the Philippines?

There are plenty of grocery stores in the Philippines sourcing orders online and encouraging customers to benefit from a contactless experience. 

Smallbasket, for example, runs a large grocery, hardware, and pharmaceutical ecommerce store. They’ve added the laudable step of prioritizing senior citizens and will process their orders before others. The store has benefitted from a surge in traffic and demand and is trying its best to keep up; but that’s not a bad problem to have right now as it serves the community and economy.

“Shopify has greatly helped to start, grow and manage our business for two years now”, said Engr. Allan Muhammad Ali G. Lachica, the founder and COO of Small Basket. “We trust Shopify because it's the gold standard for ecommerce platforms and ensures a high security level for the safety of our customers' information.” 

“The business - it's still a grocery just made easy not only for stay at home moms, career professionals, but also Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who work abroad and send groceries, pharmacy and basic hardware needs to their families in the Philippines”, said Dr. Genelin Ruth P. James, co-founder and CEO of Small Basket. 

Organic goods site The Superfood Grocer stocks its products at several supermarkets across the Philippines, but also offers pickup and delivery via a partnership with Metro Manila. 

“Since switching to Shopify about 7 years ago, managing our online store has become so much easier, allowing us to focus our energy on core aspects of our business instead. We love everything about Shopify -- especially its robust backend operational support,” said Carmela Cancio-Go, the co-founder & Managing Director of The Superfood Grocer. 

“More than its aesthetics, we love the integrated apps, daily dashboard, analytics, and inventory control, among others, which make our online operations so convenient and almost effortless! This came especially handy during this time, as we went full circle (starting from an online store, to distributing in retail supermarkets, and back to being more present online again). Thank you Shopify!”

Rounding up the list is Organics.ph, which offers delivery via Lalamove. The platform is powered by Shopify and accepts a number of payment methods, including bank deposit for those who don’t have credit cards.

"Shopify has been so valuable to us during this lockdown. We have had to switch locations in order to continue servicing clients and Shopify has made that very easy for us," exclaimed Hoover, the Director of Organics.ph.

How do I get started?

It’s easy to get started with an online store on Shopify. Here’s a handy checklist you can use for the purpose. 

Navigate over to our homepage and start a 90-day complimentary trial. Shopify makes it easy to connect existing domain names or get started with your own. 

We also recommend that you start thinking about things like a logo and a name. Make sure you have a reliable supplier for all your products and take stock of existing inventories and price. You should also start taking stellar product photography and write up product descriptions to help customers understand what they’re buying.

Shopify is keen to help more grocery stores sell online. If you think your neighbourhood store might benefit from exploring Shopify, do fill out their details here and we will reach out to them.