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Imagination and innovation in food delivery

Gojek’s quest to customize individual needs in a booming market

The Indonesian ride-hailing and food delivery giant, Gojek, is bent on becoming a household name in Bangkok. But the task is not an easy one: Gojek is Indonesian and boasts success stories in Singapore, India, and Vietnam. How different are the unique preferences of Thai customers?

With a determination to understand and cater to the personal tastes of Thai people, Gojek is calling on the expertise generated by four busy markets, and is relying heavily on data to provide a pathway to the hearts and pockets of Thais. 

It is rare, at the end of the pandemic year, 2020, to find a business that is booming. But it was the pain of Covid-19’s lockdowns and social distancing that led food-delivery services to not only survive the consequent economic recession, but also to thrive.

According to Kasikorn Bank Research, food-delivery services were on the rise in Thailand in the “old normal” years before the coronavirus.

In 2019, the business was worth between Bt33 and Bt35 billion, up 14 per cent from the previous year. And as hope of a “new normal” gathers confidence, the industry is now expected to grow even faster.

Seeing that Thailand’s food-delivery service industry was still nascent, Gojek Group seized the opportunity and set out, in the first instance, simply to offer Thais another choice. But studying the market has opened far greater prospects, calling for innovation and originality. Gojek Group’s Head of Product for International Markets, and a co-founder of Gojek Thailand, Feng Chen, revealed details of developing products and services to The Story Thailand

Normal procedure for Gojek in entering a new landscape is to conduct data analysis and customer research in order to plan a roadmap for providing what that market really needs. In Singapore, the best play for Gojek was to offer choices in the ride-hailing market. In Thailand, the results showed that the big opportunity was in food delivery. 

“To fulfill our mission, we try to reduce any friction in the lives of our users. And we do this by adapting our technology to meet the needs of the unique landscape in each market; we need to tailor our product to fit those needs to which we can relate,” she said.

Personalization the core strategy 

Feng Chen pointed out that people’s choices and preferences of what they would like to eat are fundamentally unique. The challenge is to customize Gojek’s product to create an experience that reflects that individual uniqueness.

“We are constantly working to improve our customers’ experiences at every point of the journey. We are always looking at the data and conducting customer research and interviews to understand how we can better serve our customers’ needs,” she said.

Gojek has three applications, used by consumers, merchants and drivers, and these are constantly being upgraded, with new features to facilitate food on offer and placing and taking orders, while emphasizing the measure of uniqueness that only Gojek can provide in serving different groups of clients.

Feng Chen said customers’ needs were basic to the way that Gojek attracted customers to its platform. There were many different customer segments, and each had different levels of sensitivity towards different factors in their decisions about what to order or which platform to use. For example, some were price-sensitive, while others were attracted by the way Gojek merged different offerings.

By focusing solely on the needs of its customers, Gojek could avoid worrying about its competitors because its only goal was to customize the pleasure of customers. 

Data to create differentiation and find the right consumer needs 

To differentiate and truly serve customers’ personal tastes, data is a vital key to Gojek’s services. Data helps the firm to understand what different user segments expect from its platform. And there is no end to how Gojek can improve its platform to serve all of the specific needs expressed by people wishing to use its service. 

Feng Chen said that in terms of advantages gained from data, Gojek is poised to become one of the best platforms in Thailand’s food-delivery service industry because data provides more efficient ways to create social impacts.

“We have tech members in Indonesia, Singapore, India, Vietnam and Thailand. And it has taken all of these amazing team members to deliver the unified tech platform,” Feng Chen said, adding that remote collaboration has always been a normal activity, so there has been no disruption felt from the pandemic.

As the team members are based in five countries, Gojek brings together their unique perspectives and relies on data to drive decisions or support ideas with strong rationale.

“This gives us a lot of collective intelligence. When there are so many different members coming from so many different perspectives, you really get a lot of great ideas. And then, based on data or, at times, customer research, the best solutions usually come from that. That’s how we work. Even though we come from different places and have different backgrounds and different expertise, at the end of the day we are all trying to do the same things; we are all on the same mission. That’s how it comes together,” Feng Chen explained.

Empowering “hyperlocal” business

As well as personalizing customers’ experiences and focusing on data, another of Gojek’s secret weapons to help differentiate its business from other food-delivery services is hyperlocalization.  Feng Chen said that in Indonesia, Gojek had gained an advantage because it began with a unique insight into what customers, drivers and merchants needed. This is something that contributed to Gojek’s main mission in entering the Thai market.

“We need to differentiate, to customize and hyperlocalize, to provide an experience that really speaks to users in Thailand as well. This has always been a core part of our strategy,” she said.

The term hyperlocal refers to a small area or a specific demography. However, in terms of the delivery business, it defines a model in which service providers acquire requested products locally and deliver them to customers in the nearby area. And for Gojek, hyperlocal also means giving more support to local businesses. 

“We start with a strategy that is hyperlocalized and it takes us all the way down to actually releasing and marketing products. Everything we do is at a hyperlocal level,” Feng Chen said.

An example of hyperlocalization undertaken by Gojek was the delivery of food orders in Bangkok by runners. The firm’s planners noticed the uniqueness of Bangkok’s merchants and residential density – there were many restaurants and condominiums in the same area. So Gojek developed and experimented with a runner service. 

“If people need to order over a short distance, why not have someone who doesn’t have a motorcycle deliver the food?” Feng Chen asked. “This allowed us to expand our driver base and offer even more jobs to people who don’t have a motorcycle to deliver the food, and we have grown into more and more area across Bangkok. So, that’s something that’s working really well here, but may not be applicable to other markets.”

Following positive feedback since its launch in Bangkok, Gojek has been encouraged to pursue more modern, friendly and approachable features, including a safety feature, on its platform.

“There are many more ways to customize ordering experiences, for example, dishes in a list of favorites, and beyond. It’s really been driving us to enable personalization on our platform, so that customers can really get a tailored experience when they come to Gojek,” Feng Chen concluded.

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