Internet shopping addresses many needs, including pleasing consumers who are short on time or inclination to physically visit stores. This factor is best evident in the successful concept of online grocers. In the past decade, online grocery retailing has become big business around the world — especially for big names such as Tesco, Walmart and Asda – as more brick-and-mortar retailers offer internet shopping, and online-only retailers try to beat competition.
Market research firm IBISWorld estimates that online grocery shopping will grow by 9.5 per cent annually, well on track to becoming a $9.4 billion (Dh34.5 billion) industry by 2017. In the UAE, although it has been slow to catch on, it is showing steady signs of picking up.
Fortuitously, three of Dubai’s most popular online grocers are based in the freehold community of Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT). SuperMart.ae declares itself an upscale integrated online grocery: “We introduced the concept of online grocery shopping as an innovative and convenient alternative to traditional grocery shopping. We made many people’s life [sic] easier and more convenient,” says their website. Based out of a small supermarket named Edelweiss in JLT, and a large warehouse at the rear from which it runs its online grocery, SuperMart promises to save time, energy and even the environment.
Trolley.ae, rewards customers by remembering their choices. “You can start shopping from your last trolley, rather than filling up your trolley from scratch. Your last trolley is the last order you sent to one of the online stores. You can also start shopping directly from your Favourites list or from your previous Orders list,” the site promises.
Although it is not technically an online grocer, JLT’s Blue Planet Green People offers home delivery of locally-grown vegetables and a variety of organic, health-conscious and eco-friendly foods, with a minimum notice period of 24 hours.
In the other freehold community of The Palm Jumeirah, gourmet grocery store Milk & Honey allows customers to order through the website, by phone and by email and a dedicated iPad application. Besides everyday groceries, the store also has patisserie and delicatessen items — and delivery is available 24 hours.
GroceryMan aims to specialise in home delivery of groceries, but until their e-shopping portal is ready, the online grocer is taking orders over the phone or through email.
Their customer promise is quite prosaic: “Yes, we might encounter certain difficulties in the initial stages in knowing your tastes and preferences, but we are confident that with your support and our system in place, we would be able to provide you an excellent and enjoyable service, InshaAllah. All we need from you is your support, trust and patience; rest will be taken care of by us.” The products on the website are classified by categories including Smoky Products, Tokens of Love, Greet and Stay in Touch.
Organic Foods and Café has free deliveries on certain days to certain areas in Dubai, and among the many products consumers can order are those from the organic and bio-dynamic range, recently renamed Organic Larder.
New entrants do not seem to have deterred EarlyBird.ae, one of the UAE’s earliest entrants in the online grocer space. Having undergone several changes since its launch in 2006, the relaunch of the website in March has seen the addition of several new products, and prices that match that of brick-and-mortar retailers. Delivery is available throughout the week, from 7.30am to 1am
In a niche of its own, Glutenfree-supermarket.ae claims to be Dubai’s first online store for 100 per cent gluten-free products. With a variety of products designed for those with Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) — the website delivers anywhere in the UAE within 48 hours of ordering.
But all these players seem to pale in comparison to recent market entrant Géant. Heralding the move from online supermarket to online hypermarket, the giant retail chain launched its online website in mid-June to deliver fresh food and groceries to select locations in Dubai. The website offers online chat support and is compatible with all iOS and Android devices.
Sajid Azmi, Head of E-commerce and Digital Marketing, Géant Online, says the online grocery shopping sector is growing rapidly in many countries and it is only natural for the UAE to take its place on the stage. “Given Dubai’s position as a leading technology and shopping hub and due to the increase in the internet and credit card usage in the UAE, we believe Dubai offers the ideal platform to start our online grocery business in this region.”