We tried online grocery shopping. Here's our verdict. (Part 1)

We’re now seeing the rapid growth of e-services start-ups such as Honestbee and Redmart. Could going to the supermarket soon be a thing of the past? Before we answer that question, understand that these companies have a different set of issues compared to an online clothing retailer. For instance:

  • Refrigeration costs. For those with their own inventories, as Redmart does.
  • Spoilt produce. Especially in our tropical climate!
  • The issue of variable quality. Food does not come in identical copies. This particular roll of cabbage may be fresh and green, but the one next to it could be a less savoury specimen. Online supermarkets will be responsible for picking and choosing the best selections, which may be a deal-breaker for some.

We decided to try our hand at ordering from three such services - Honestbee, Redmart, and Cold Storage - to get a better idea of the online ordering experience. Here’s our verdict.


(image: Honestbee)

How it works: Honestbee leverages on existing resources – in this case, partner supermarkets instead of private vehicles – to serve up groceries to customers. It does not have an inventory (which means no operation or storage facilities cost), and instead relies on freelance runners to respond to orders and make deliveries.

Process: At the landing page, you’re prompted to key in your postal code or address, and a list of available partner stores is then displayed. The interface is simple to navigate, and a helpful side bar with clear categories such as “Fresh Fruit and Vegetables” or “Preserved and Dried Food” lets you find what you need quickly – much like supermarket aisle signs.

After adding the desired quantity to your cart, you’re prompted to leave your phone number and any further instructions before checkout. For instance, you can simply instruct the runner to leave your items at your doorstep if you’re not home, or even specify how ripe you want your fruit to be.

Plus points

  • Same-day delivery offering: This is good news for intrepid chefs who are missing key ingredients at the last minute. The earliest being two hours from our order time.
  • Waived delivery fees for first-time customers with orders above $10: This is a much more generous criterion, compared to charges from Redmart and Cold Storage.
  • Contingency measures: At the payment page, you are asked to select replacement items should your ordered items be out of stock. You can also request for the runner to call you if even the replacement items are unavailable, or simply opt to receive only available items.

And voila! Our order was sitting on our doorstep two hours later, and the items were fresh and in good condition. The site is also optimized for mobile-phone use, and it remembers your credit card information, so you can pretty much order while on the move.


(image: Redmart)

How it works: Redmart is a massive logistical operation with its own inventory and a network of independent sellers on the Redmart Marketplace.  


Redmart’s interface is slightly different. First, search for a specific product or category in order to view the available listings. For instance, searching for “herbs” yields suggested categories such as “Salads & Herbs” and “Herbs & Spices”, along with individual product listings that match the word or phrase.

Plus points:

  • Helpful filters: Because it controls and takes stock of its own inventory, Redmart helps sort items according to whether they are new arrivals, on sale, or simply in stock. No need to select second-choice items at checkout. Other filters include brand, price, and popularity.
  • Redmart also generates a list of suggested items that it thinks might go with your order. At checkout, you can enter special instructions as to how you want your items delivered.
  • Self-collection: The option to collect at certain pickup locations across the island is helpful, especially if you live near these locations and want to save on delivery for small orders.
  • Different payment options and free delivery: You can pay with either your credit card or Paypal. At the time of writing, Redmart was also offering free delivery for orders over $30.

Unlike Honestbee, you’re not likely to get a same-day delivery slot. We ordered on a Sunday, and the earliest available slot was on Tuesday. So, if you’re intending to buy from Redmart, you should plan ahead.

However, Redmart allows you to reserve a two-hour time slot before you even add items to your basket, although you can do it while checking out as well. It’s handy for those who don’t want to risk having their ideal delivery time slot snapped up. Take note that this reservation is only good for an hour.

We continue the review of Cold Storage's online services here.

This article was first published on the Home & Decor February 2016 issue.