Online retail platforms served as a major conduit and sustaining factor for several businesses in the heat of covid-19 lockdown. While offices, shops and many small enterprises were shut out of business, firms with digital footprints were able to connect with customers and get orders delivered with the help of delivery agents. Businesses without digital presence were thus forced to rethink their models for survival.
For food and grocery enterprises, ecommerce platforms were key for their survival, as sit-in services were prohibited with customers restricted by social distancing rules. It was a period where more customers boarded the ecommerce food service train. Several local restaurants partnered with Jumia to keep their food, beverage and grocery service going during the lockdown. One of such businesses is Sooyah Bistro owned by popular Pop Singer Bankole Wellington.
“The lockdown was an incredibly challenging period for most people and businesses alike. Sales dropped drastically, companies shut down, and a lot of people lost their jobs. We’re grateful that Jumia kept their operation going; it was reassuring to customers, helped give them options for food at a very uncertain and difficult time, and for vendors like us, it was a huge help to still be able to keep sales going during that period.
The one thing we didn’t want to have to do was to do a mass layoff like a lot of other companies; at that point it wasn’t so much about making profit, as it was about making payroll. And even though we ran a limited operation during the lockdown, the sales we got through Jumia helped greatly in keeping our employees paid, and our operation running,” said the singer.
Other restaurants such as Chicken Republic, Sweet Sensation, Kilimanjaro, Drumstick, to mention a few, have also embraced Jumia to reach more customers. The progress made in the online food community during the lockdown was captured in the recent food index report released by Africa’s leading e-tailer, Jumia.
As contained in the report, grocery retailing continues to expand, as consumers seek comfort and convenience when shopping for food. Online food delivery is gaining momentum through companies such as Jumia Food. Quoting the report, “the food segment was the market’s most lucrative, with total revenues of $33.7bn, equivalent to 75% of the market’s overall value. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for food rose significantly, especially online food delivery as a result of the lockdown and social distancing guidelines. Many people relied heavily on food delivery as opposed to shopping in grocery markets.”
The Sooyah Bistro boss was upbeat about the future of food delivery service in Nigeria which according to him will be hugely influenced by technology and its accompanying marketplace platforms. “I think one of the trends that we’re seeing on the rise is the demand for food delivery services. That was already the case prior to the Covid-induced lockdown era, but the lockdown certainly escalated it exponentially, especially in a metropolitan area like Lagos, the traffic challenges alone are enough to encourage people to stay in the comfort of their homes and offices and have the food come to them. We’re even seeing an uptick in people who choose to use Grocery delivery services as well.
“There’s also an increase in food trucks, pop-up restaurants, and quick service food options. I think the use of technology, especially as regards delivery services and retail/point-of-sale/inventory management systems will continue to be the number one game changer in the Nigerian Food scene. Another point is food restaurants embracing social media to engage their customers, and customers embracing their favourite food brands online as well. About a year or so ago, we only had a little over 1,000 followers on Sooyah Bistro’s Instagram handle. Right now that number is at about 21,000 – so brands like ours are embracing social media as a way of telling our stories, communicating our culture and connecting with our customers, and the customers themselves are being receptive to engaging with their favourite food spots in that way,” he said.