Honestbee brings fresh buzz to convenience shopping

Company claims Hong Kong shoppers are spending an average US$100 on each of the startup’s online grocery delivery orders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 12:21pm

Hong Kong is known for its convenience, but now even here – where there’s rarely an open food or drink store on the nearest corner – the popularity of online grocery deliveries is growing fast.

So says Singaporean firm Honestbee, which launched in the city a year ago.

The company uses a network of trained buyers who can pick up orders from shops run by its more than 20 partners, ranging from ParknShop to The Butchers Club, to the sweetshop, Mr Simms.

The shopping is then picked up by a driver and dropped off at the customer’s door, within one hour.

It recently expanded deliveries to areas in west Kowloon, said Derek Winder, its manager in Hong Kong, and now aims to expand right across the city, including in the outlying islands.

So far Hong Kong shoppers are spending an average US$100 on each Honestbee order, it claims.

Winder says it has even already received orders for daily essentials from residents in Pacific Place, from the Great Food Hall in the shopping mall below, and in another case they delivered a bunch of bananas and some blueberries to an MTR exit.

Winder said more Kongkongers are starting to appreciate the ease of online grocery deliveries arriving straight to their doors, in an hour.

Honestbee’s big sell to the retailers is that it can gives them access to a ready made e-commerce presence without them needing to invest in customer support, employing extra staff or building their own logistics networks.

He adds that people in Hong Kong have often told him they don’t have time to sit around waiting for goods to be delivered, within some “delivery window” lasting hours.

“For this fast-paced environment that’s not really convenient enough,” he added.

The start-up is part of a wider global appetite for on-demand services, from food delivery to laundry and wine ordered through smartphone apps.

A May report by CB Insights found meal delivery start-ups had raised US$5.5 billion in funding globally since 2012, with grocery delivery companies taking US$3.1 billion.

However, there were more investments deals made in grocery delivery start-ups (136) in 2015, that meal delivery firms (125).

Hong Kong has seen the “on-demand” trend most visibly with fast food delivery start-ups such as Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEats run by ride hailing app Uber, which entered the market last month.

Winder said the popularity of meal delivery companies has helped promote the idea of getting goods delivered to a consumer’s home via a smartphone app, but that this in turn has pushed up the cost of staff as the companies competed for a limited pool of workers.

“When you’ve got companies that are entering the space and paying and offering a bigger salary, it does affect us,” Winder said. “But it also helps us because we can go to the partners and say ‘we’re still offering this service at this price’.”