For many, the COVID-19 era promises to foster a brighter future for online grocery – a sector that has failed to take off in the way it was supposed to a decade ago.
However, the co-founder of the new KitchenPal app, Aditya Gaurav, believes the inherent snags of online grocery shopping remain. “Necessity is driving the current shift in trend,” he told FoodNavigator. "There are three reasons why people say they don't buy groceries online,” he continued. “One is the delivery costs. The second is that people don't trust the produce - especially with fresh produce they like to see the ripeness and quality themselves. Third is the experience. Most people actually prefer the offline shopping experience compared to online."
Harnessing AI to improve consumer experience
KitchenPal’s solution is to harness technology, data and AI in a bid to solve these problems. Gaurav, a tech specialist who left a sales leadership role at Google to launch the venture, explains that the app aims to be a recipe finder, pantry manager and grocery list rolled into one.
"I realised that the only thing that any ecommerce grocery delivery platform gave me, the only intelligence they had, was what I purchased last time,” he said. “No one told me what to buy and how much to buy.” KitchenPal, instead, is designed to ‘put the user in the centre’ by offering recipe ideas based on what items they already have in their kitchens. Users receive alerts when their products and ingredients are expiring and can manage their kitchen inventory to create shopping lists for groceries.
"We wanted to create a shopping experience where the consumer is centre instead of the product,” continued Gaurav. “The more you understand the consumer; the more you can personalise their shopping experience. In the same way Google is moving from search to assist, you want a shopping experience also to move from search to assist. So instead of the user having to search for what they want, the system is designed to figure out what the consumer needs and will offer it."
KitchenPal is exploring partnerships with retailers in France and Germany to integrate one click ecommerce as well and anticipates having a tie up in Europe by the third quarter this year.
It also plans to offer app users digital coupons which can be redeemed offline, in stores.
“We are basically a data company and want to create the best user experience. And then we will hand the consumers to the retailer,” explained the co-founder. It further aims to leverage its technological nous to create – as per the Amazon advertising business that generates an estimated $4bn per quarter -- targeted ads which will be shown to app users at the checkout stage, based on what's in their shopping baskets.
A potential solution to food waste
KitchenPal’s model addresses another issue currently hot on the minds of consumers at present: food waste. The worldwide pandemic has assisted Gaurav’s venture. "For us, it's been good as a lot more people are at home cooking and paying attention to groceries - so engagement has improved."
The app currently boasts around 75,000 users in Europe off ‘virtually zero’ marketing while the product is fine tuned.
“Our main target is households in the 25-45 age range, since they are independent and earlier adopters of technology. Though we launched in France [at the beginning of last year] we are now rolling out in the UK, with markets like Germany and Spain to follow before the end of the year. We are targeting about 50mn households in these markets. Our other markets are in Asia Pacific.”
What’s going to be the biggest challenge in reaching this ambitious target?
"Right now, it's habit. With technology, the biggest challenge is always basically changing consumers' habits. The reason we've yet to market the app is that we are still trying to simplify the experience so that anyone can use it. It's about improving the consumer experience - that's where the gap is."