Grocery shopping gets personal

Swan creates differentiators for consumers shopping for home essentials online

E-grocery continues to be the fastest growing segment of e-commerce in the UAE, driven partly by the high customer retention rates post lockdown. While e-grocery options were around for years before Covid-19, adoption rate was sluggish – reflecting in small basket sizes, infrequent orders and trust issues. 
Gaurav Bansal, CEO of Swan, quips, “The pandemic pushed more people towards ordering online. Movement restrictions during the lockdown phase may have triggered this transition, but the greater convenience and time efficiency has made users stick for good”
Within a span of a few months, users enjoyed a wide variety of e-grocery platforms; and previously insignificant factors like inconvenience of commute, long checkout queues and cost of impulse buying, started playing an important role in decision making.

Swan – A friend in need

Swan, born in late 2019, enabled the UAE residents to enjoy a personalised grocery shopping experience, and emerged as the perfect partner for supermarkets as well as a trustworthy shopping buddy for its users. Even before the lockdown, Swan was continuously refining its operations, logistics and adding partners by the day.
The novel coronavirus was going to change everything. The only part we did not know was the intensity and the mammoth size of how our lives were going to change. Swan was getting ready for an anticipated barrage of orders. Within days, Swan went from a recently launched grocery delivery platform to being viewed as a critical and an essential service to the UAE residents. 
Bansal says, “The pressures on operations was enormous due to the sudden flood of orders., However, the organisation structure of Swan was built to be nimble from day one, and this situation helped strengthen the bond with our users.”
Swan, albeit with a small team, scrambled resources quickly and pivoted within a short span to help UAE residents in their time of need. This was an opportunity to give back to the community and the team worked extremely hard to accommodate each and every order. “We wanted to make sure that not even one order gets cancelled from our end,” thereby raising the bar for other e-grocery platforms in the region.
Bansal recalls: “We were onboarding stores and cataloging their assortments by the hour. All the employees were moved into either operations or customer service. Everyone took pride in what they were doing, and this was constantly fueled by the grateful comments from the customers. In an attempt to deal with the increasing demand due to social distancing rules, Swan rolled out some key features in the app to increase user convenience. By launching late night delivery services and the option of building baskets from different stores throughout the week, Swan enabled its customers to shop safer, avoid impulse buys and make healthful dietary choices.

The differentiator

The UAE is a mix of many nationalities and they have very specific preferences when it comes to household essentials. Swan’s focus from the start is not only to cater to the wider community as a whole, but also to offer a personalised assortment to the user.
Bansal mentions: “Instead of adding every store out there, we carefully handpick only those retail partners who add to overall assortment variety as well as elevate customer service levels. This results in a user-friendly purchase flow, faster checkouts and lesser screen time.”
Not only that, Swan learns from your app usage and recommends products to make your shopping experience even more personalised.
Bansal added, “Moreover, Swan’s pickers are professionally trained to pick products as you would. Instead of grabbing items off the shelves, they inspect each and every product to ensure you get only the freshest and the best from the store. Out of stock items are clearly communicated to the customer with replacements suggestions so that there are no surprises when the order gets delivered.”
Offering the app in both English and Arabic, Swan involves its users in app design as well as in R&D for new features. This ensures that gaps are identified early and the user experience gets better over consequent orders.

New avenues of growth

While the e-grocery market has been getting crowded with new entrants, things are gradually shifting to a phase where user centricity is going to drive adoption rates. While growth for the rest of 2021 is expected, we can also see more acquisitions happening in the near future.
Bansal says: “2020 accelerated the Swan’s emergence as a key e-commerce player, and we are committed to continue the momentum in 2021. Swan is fully equipped to exploit all the opportunities in the region to better serve its users and emerge as the go-to platform for multiple needs. Our primary focus continues to be on improving the in-app shopping experience and offering a personalised service rather than focusing on things like 30-min delivery,
which provide little to no actual value to the
end customer.”
Swan’s primary focus was to offer a seamless shopping experience and to bring convenience back to the community. In light of this, Swan beauty, which was launched just a few months ago, is already seeing a very high advocacy among users, both for in- salon appointments and at-home services. 
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