In the age of online food delivery marketplaces like Deliveroo, UberEATS, or Just Eat, you may question whether also building your own web shop is really the best use of your time and resources. The short answer? Absolutely, yes. We spoke with industry professionals at Slerp about the benefits of personalising and diversifying your business’ online presence, and the importance of having your own direct-to-consumer online store – even once pandemic restrictions are lifted and customers begin returning to physical establishments.

Slerp are, put simply, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) solution enabling independent businesses to easily do pickup, on-demand, pre-orders, and nationwide delivery. In their own words, “We are believers that every bricks and mortar retailer needs to be an omni-channel operation in order to thrive”. They also maintain that small business owners should not be wholly dependent on third-party marketplaces, but rather that they should own the conversation between their brand and their customers by selling to them directly.

Photo by Shopify Partners

Doing so has only become more urgent over the past year, as changing trends in customer behaviour were expedited by the fast-transforming landscape. In light of this, Slerp’s Chief Commercial Officer Matthew Gillet states that, “we have found that those who’ve taken a D2C option and who have diversified outside the UberEATS of the world, were in a much better place over lockdown 2.0 than those who haven’t.”

Though many businesses have been driven to seek new approaches because of current socio-economic challenges, Gillet asserts that “looking at this as a temporary measure is a short-sighted view… having a web shop isn’t a COVID band-aid. Every other industry in retail has a strong digital presence. We’re seeing the erosion of traditional, high street retail because people are going online. And for a food business to grow into the future, we see that as a must-have, it’s not just something that’s nice to have. It’s a necessary business feature.”

New technologies have also made it easier and cheaper than ever to build your own online store. Service providers like Shopify require minimal technical skills, and are not time-consuming. Though you may believe your brand is perfectly well-served through third-party online delivery marketplaces, the issue with platforms like Just Eat is that they are over-saturated. And since your business’ storefront looks near-identical on these platforms to your direct competitors’, there is little reason why a customer should choose to spend their money with you and not them. Having an independent web shop lets you develop your brand identity, which in turn helps build trust in the brand and personalises the relationship between your business and your customers.

Photo by Matthew Henry

However, that is not to say that a web shop should replace your store’s presence on platforms like Deliveroo. Gillet emphasises, “we’re not advocating for people to substitute… but only using those marketplaces is not enough. You need to own your own brand online and invest in it.”

“Any brand, operator, or vendor that is on Deliveroo or UberEATS has no reason why they shouldn’t be running their direct-to-consumer channel as a profitability play. It’s complimentary,” explains Slerp’s Integrations Manager Daniel Tollefsen. “People typically only order from approximately 3 or 4 restaurants in their entire lifetime. So if you have that D2C option where the prices might be cheaper because the restaurants can lower their prices with that margin difference, that’s super valuable. And then you have access to that customer data, which you can use to better target your products.”

In the case of independent food businesses in particular, Tollefsen states that “we have a lot of brands really putting money into renovating their kitchens to have a dedicated delivery space, as well as having the space that covers in-store demand. I think that’s a leading indicator of the behavioural changes that they’re preparing for, such as greater flexibility in working habits, more people working from home and potentially, if we’re thinking blue skies, a reversal (to some degree) of the urbanisation that we’ve been seeing, in favour of communities forming where you can work from home and have cool, local food options at your disposal.”

So, don’t wait to take ownership of your online ordering and delivery service. Connect directly with your customers today.

Visit Slerp here.

Photo by Matthew Henry