Foodpanda focuses on customer experience as Uber and Deliveroo threaten its Singapore stronghold

Singaporeans love food, it’s a national obsession. So it’s not a surprise that it’s become a key market for innovative food businesses. It’s quite small in population and geography, it’s mostly urban and the people who live there are gadget-savvy, lending itself to be an ideal testing ground for new products and services.

These facts are also the ingredients to a very healthy food delivery market. Foodpanda was one of the first to launch in the market and yet it didn’t take its cake and eat it, it’s made some serious changes to its business model and retained a healthy market share. It recently celebrated getting its 1000th restaurant onto the platform.

It is now prepping itself for more heat as Deliveroo and UberEats present themselves as competitors, as well as the likes of other big players such as Just East and Hungry House in other markets.

When The Drum spoke to Foodpanda Singapore MD Emma Heap, she said she’d already spoken to over 50 customers that week… and it was only Wednesday. It is part of the commitment from the brand to put experience first, something its taking a lot more seriously as competition mounts.

The saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ doesn’t apply to Heap, however, who believes in a free market and welcomes competition.

“Competition is a good thing and it makes every company up their game. Consumers will make their choice. To make them chooses you, you can throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into markets or you can understand customers and give a good experience. I have spoken to well over 50 customers and its only Wednesday because we run the company with customers first, not marketing first, and that’s how you deserve to win the market if there is to be a winner,” she says.

Not putting marketing at the front of the tools doesn’t mean Foodpanda isn’t using it at all, however. Heap’s 50 customer conversations in half a week were the result of an unprecedentedly busy weekend. The company offered free delivery to customers as a thank you for reaching 1000 restaurants, celebrating its birthday and for Mother’s Day.

“We do a lot of marketing. We want to grow multiple channels and so of course need to do marketing. In a competitive market we need to keep our name out there, Deliveroo has been aggressive since launch. We wanted to give people who had faith in us something in return. The free delivery was a celebration and giving back to consumers. But then of course we don’t just rely on marketing, it’s about customer service and we didn’t give as good a service as we’d have liked, so I then followed up personally,” she explained.

Another key part of customer experience is the technology and ensuring that it meets the now very high expectations of users. Heap says the likes of Foodpanda and Just Eat have been met by incumbent food brands that used to be the only ones synonymous with delivery, such as Pizza Hut, with everyone now fighting to match the 30-minute delivery time and order tracking that the most innovative brands are offering.

“Tech underpins everything we do, it’s the key reason we were able to reduce delivery time; we used tech to automate dispatching and select the best driver, tech devises the best roots for the driver. We also use tech to send orders to restaurants so we can scale, rather than use the phone,” says Heap.

UberEats hasn’t yet launched in Singapore yet but the taxi app is already pushing hard into the market for its core service, making it the only 'developed' area to trial cash payments. It’s recognised that Singapore is important for the brand and, despite it being one of the top countries for smartphone penetration, it sees giving choice as a way to win market share in a competitive landscape.

Competition may be about to jump up a notch in Singapore but the appetite of the nation may be big enough to make room for one more course.

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