Acknowledging the benchmark

Just to stay in the game you need to be just as good.

We're big fans of the Checkers Sixty60 app.

It might be fair to say that as far as big companies in South Africa commercialising innovative ideas (the track record of this is understandably sketchy), this app might just be the best thing we've seen in this country in the last decade.

It was vital during hard lockdowns but has since become far more convenient (and less annoying) than actually, physically going to a Checkers store.

All-in-all the best part about it is that it (surprise, surprise) delivers on what it promises.

Delivery has never taken more than 60 minutes, all the products listed on the app are consistently available, your groceries are always neatly and perfectly packed in purpose-designed recyclable bags with cool little icons printed on them - that are strong enough to withstand the immense beating they get on the journey from the nearest store to your door.

The customer experience of the Sixty60 service is great and because of that we happily use it a lot.

Then last week we tried a competing service

Last Friday we tried to use a competitor to the Sixty60 app -  the Woolworths Dash app - and the experience could not have been more frustrating.

Now to be fair, we do frequently physically shop at a Woolies store during the week, so it would be very convenient to have those items seamlessly delivered to us.

That dream, however - would remain just that.

Items that we wanted were not available to purchase, the app (for some odd reason) combined our detected geo-location with the right delivery address that we physically punched in and selected to, rather frustratingly, send the delivery guy to the wrong address and when the items did eventually arrive (many, many hours after we had ordered) they were all squashed together in a standard, thin plastic shopping bags that was clearly not fit for purpose for the rigours of fast delivery via a speeding moterbike.

It felt as if the service hadn't been designed properly; an add-on to the existing value chain processes rather than a purpose-built, stand-alone system.

The customer experience of the Woolies Dash app was shoddy and not what you would expect from Woolies at all. And it's not like Woolies have just recently launched the thing and we could give them the excuse that these are just teething problems.

No - the Woolworths Dash app has been around for some time, it's just that nobody has been tasked to make sure that the snags get ironed out.

It's reasonable to say that this particular service doesn't deliver on the expected industry benchmark set by its biggest competitor and because of that it's certainly not one that we'll willingly use again.

What this example shows is that innovation stops being labeled as innovative when it's already fairly mainstream in the marketplace.

When a competitor is already clearly hitting it out of the park with a route-to-market service that uses technology innovatively; as another big supermarket group you're then tasked with playing catchup just to equal the new market benchmark that has been set.

Just to stay in the game you need to be just as good.

If you fail to acknowledge, and at least meet the benchmark, you're basically just reinforcing the dominant market position of your competitor in that segment by your continued existence.

Checkers have successfully managed to leverage great CX and innovation to essentially monopolise the fast-shipping grocery delivery market in South Africa.

Their position cannot be challenged by the Competition Commission, but the failure of their competitors to acknowledge and meet the new benchmark is entrenching that new monopoly.

The difference is that Checkers are largely recognising and respecting the huge opportunity that their app gives them under current conditions and are wholeheartedly investing time, money, and capacity in its development.

Everyone else just appears to be sluggishly trying to play catch up with very little energy or commitment.