Crisis of technology crashing into reality: critics fluster about the impact of quick-commerce

The sudden and sharp rise of e-commerce and major flip in consumer behaviour is not just the story of Indian markets – it has also transformed cities across the globe with next day and same-day delivery of a variety of products. The competition is tough and e-commerce companies are locking heads with each other for faster deliveries. Among these are also quick-commerce companies that promise 15 minute (or less) delivery so the customers can sit back at home without worrying about their untimely grocery runs. But even in a densely populated city like this, it has been a common culture for people to know those running businesses in their neighbourhood. Critics fluster about how quick commerce can, unfortunately, bring a change in such closely-knit communities within the big bustling city.

Industry experts say that with the already strong presence of quick-commerce in cities like London, Moscow, Paris, etc., the ultra-fast grocery companies have New York on their radar due to its high population and the resultant easy access to a large number of shoppers at once. And the wind to this flame? The pandemic’s amplification of e-commerce.

Avi Kaner, a co-owner of Morton Williams, which has 15 grocery stores in Manhattan and the Bronx, said each store draws about 2,500 customers a day and generates foot traffic for nearby businesses.

“The 15-minute grocery service is “absolutely bad for the city,” he said. “In the unlikely event it is successful, it would eliminate the primary location in each community that is a gathering spot.”

As per the critics of this concept, even though NYC is densely populated, running to the corner bodega for orange juice or knowing deli workers by name has long been part of daily urban life. Another major point of worry is that this concept of online grocers will negatively impact the local/community shops and markets, and send more delivery workers onto crowded city streets already filled with food app workers.

“We’ve been here forever and they come from nowhere and grab a market that is our market,” said Francisco Marte, the founder of the Bodega and Small Business Association, which represents 2,000 bodegas in New York City, including some that offer online shopping.

Even though quick-commerce has found its supporters in the big city, a part of the NYC population is happy going to the store/deli to get something in under 15 minutes, rather than ordering it online and getting it delivered to their doorstep, and they are also urging others to do so.

Retail experts also worry that this model of heavy discounts (in order to attract more customers and increase market share) and lightning-fast deliveries will not be able to hold water for long. According to them, it will see a gradual but eventual upturn in costs and if on some days, the order volume is much higher than the manageable limits, it is likely that they won’t be able to deliver all orders within 15 minutes or less.

“At the end of the day, how are they going to make money?” said Mark Cohen, an adjunct professor and director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. “This is the crisis of technology crashing into reality.”

Online grocery shopping accounts for 12% of nationwide grocery sales after the pandemic and it is safe to say that the stakes are high as these ultra-fast grocers spread across multiple cities in the US and come upon higher demand by the day.

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