Grab is Southeast Asia’s leading super app, providing everyday services such as ride-hailing, food delivery, payments, and more. In this blog, we’d like to share our journey in discovering the need for GrabMart and coming together as a team to build it.

Being there in the time of need

Back in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting increasingly widespread in Southeast Asia, people began to feel the pressing threat of the virus in carrying out their everyday activities. As social distancing restrictions tightened across Southeast Asia, consumers’ reliance on online shopping and delivery services also grew. Given the ability of our systems to readily adapt to changes, we were able to introduce a new service that our customers needed - GrabMart. By leveraging the GrabFood platform and quickly onboarding retail partners, we can now provide customers with their daily essentials on-demand, within a one hour delivery window.

Beginning an experiment

As early as November 2019, Grab was already piloting the concept of GrabMart in Malaysia and Singapore in light of the growing online grocery shopping trend. Our Product team decided to first launch GrabMart as a category within GrabFood to quickly gather learnings with minimal engineering effort. Through this pilot, we were able to test the operational flow, identify the value proposition to our customers, and expand our merchant selection.

GrabMart within the GrabFood flow
GrabMart within the GrabFood flow

We learned that customers had difficulty finding specific items as there was no search function available and they had to scroll through the full list of merchants on the app. Drivers who received GrabMart orders were not always prepared to accept the job as the orders - especially larger ones - were not distinguished from GrabFood. Thanks to our agile Engineering teams, we fixed these issues efficiently, ensuring a smoother user experience.

Redefining the mart experience

With the exponential growth of GrabMart regionally at 50% week over week (from around April to September), the team was determined to create a new version of GrabMart that better suited the needs of our users.

Our user research validated our hypothesis that shopping for groceries online is completely different from ordering meals online. Replicating the user flow of GrabFood for GrabMart would have led us to completely miss the natural path customers take at a grocery store on the app. For example, unlike ordering food, grocery shopping begins at an item-level instead of a merchant-level (like with GrabFood). Identifying this distinction led us to highlight item categories on both the GrabMart homepage and search results page. Other important user research highlights include:

  • Item/Store Categories. For users that already have a store in mind, they often look for the store directly. This behavior is similar to the offline shopping behavior. Users unsure of where to find an item, search for it directly or navigate to item categories.
  • Add to Cart. When purchasing familiar items, users often add the items to cart without clicking to read more about the product. Product details are only viewed when purchasing newer items.
  • Scheduled Delivery. As far as delivery time goes, every customer has different needs. Some prefer paying a higher fee for faster delivery, while others preferred waiting longer if it meant that the delivery fee was reduced. Hence we decided to offer on-demand delivery for urgent purchases, and scheduled delivery for non-urgent buys.
The New GrabMart Experience
The New GrabMart Experience

In order to meet our timelines, we divided the deliverables into two main releases and got early feedback from internal users through our Grab Early Access (GEA) program. Since GEA gives users a sneak-peek into upcoming app features, we can resolve any issues that they encounter before releasing the product to the general public. In addition, we made some large-scale changes required across multiple Grab systems, such as the order management system to account for the new mart order type, the allocation system to allocate the right type of driver for mart orders, and the merchant app and our Partner APIs to enable merchants to prepare mart orders efficiently.

Coupled with user research and country insights on grocery shopping behaviour, we ruthlessly prioritised the features to be built. We introduced Item categories to cater to customers who needed urgent restock of a few items, and Store categories for those shopping for their weekly groceries. We developed add-to-cart to make it easier for customers to put items in their basket, especially if they have a long list of products to buy. Furthermore, we included a Scheduled Delivery option for our Indonesian customers who want to receive their orders in person.

Designing for emotional states

As we implemented multiple product changes, we realised that we could not risk overwhelming our customers with the amount of information we wanted to communicate. Thus, we decided to prominently display product images in the item category page and allocated space only for essential product details, such as price. Overall, we strived for an engaging design that balanced showing a mix of products, merchant offers, and our own data-driven recommendations.

The future of e-commerce

“COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of on-demand delivery services across Southeast Asia, and we were able to tap on existing technologies, our extensive delivery network, and operational footprint to quickly scale GrabMart across the region. In a post-COVID19 normal, we anticipate demand for delivery services to remain elevated. We will continue to double down on expanding our GrabMart service to support consumers’ shopping needs,” said Demi Yu, Regional Head of GrabFood and GrabMart.

As the world embraces a new normal, we believe that online shopping will become even more essential in the months to come. Along with Grab’s Operations team, we continue to grow our partners on GrabMart so that we can become the most convenient and affordable choice for our customers regionally. By enabling more businesses to expand online, we can then reach more of our customers and meet their needs together.

To learn more about GrabMart and its supported stores and features, click here.

Join us

Grab is more than just the leading ride-hailing and mobile payments platform in Southeast Asia. We use data and technology to improve everything from transportation to payments and financial services across a region of more than 620 million people. We aspire to unlock the true potential of Southeast Asia and look for like-minded individuals to join us on this ride.

If you share our vision of driving South East Asia forward, apply to join our team today.