So you are hungry.
At the very outset, food delivery should meet two basic criterions – it should be cost-effective and it should provide good quality food in a hygienic, well-packed manner. I’d be lying if I said that either of these products fare any better in these two basic regards. Both have a reasonable number of restaurants, food options, similar prices, and similar overall delivery times.
There is a lot that can be said about the product philosophy, business practices, and marketing ideals of these companies. But my interaction with both of these products has been strictly as that of a consumer. I am not a restaurant owner, I am not a venture capitalist following these companies on a regular basis, so I am going to go ahead and shut up my mouth about all these things that I know so little about. Instead, I am going to focus on what I have experienced as a user and compare these two services without sounding too entitled.
The devil is in the details. Or in this case – in the delivery.
The UI Review
Let me just get out and say this – if you are going to get fat, do it with Swiggy. There was a time when I had only used Zomato for food delivery, primarily because of the avalanche of offers that they had let loose. But once I changed gears to Swiggy, life has been different. Swiggy treats its customers with respect and care, while Zomato is that confused boy stuck in the vestiges of his past. Just looking at Zomato’s UI sometimes gives me seizures. Have a look:
Swiggy: a dip in the calm waters. Look at the colors, spacing, and presentation of details.
Zomato: in delivering the same amount of info, Zomato manages to make the font smaller, the images unclear, with no apparent color scheme and ‘Use Code: Zomato’ stuffed into every picture, making for an overall untidy and stuffy look.
Both of these apps need to show the discount available on each restaurant quite prominently because that is often the single most important factor in driving a sale. Look at how the two have chosen to embed this information:
Swiggy (Leon Grill) uses more space in the UI per restaurant and provides all the information in a cleaner format.
Notice the ‘live tracking’ feature in Zomato’s listing of Meghana Biryani. When I had first noticed this, the question in my mind was – ‘Are there restaurants that do not provide live tracking?’ It turns out that there are – Restaurants like Domino’s, Mojo Pizza, and Box8 that have their own delivery fleet (and separate apps), so they deliver their own order. When you order from these restaurants through Zomato or UberEats, you are faced by the food-tech version of the Windows blue screen of death – ‘the order can not be traced’
Swiggy solved this problem by using their own fleet instead of the restaurants’. This means that Swiggy has to arrange for an even bigger number of delivery partners for orders from these restaurants and probably have to lose out on restaurants that categorically want to use their own fleet for deliveries. But if that means avoiding problems like these, sign me up:
This, BTW, is the Zomato’s old chat UI. The new one is a downgrade over this one, which I thought wasn’t even possible.
The Search for a Good Search:
Unlike Swiggy which is solely a food delivery app, Zomato is a restaurant finder app too. It has consolidated its presence in more than 22 countries as a restaurant finder app and makes big bucks out of its advertisement business. While Swiggy labels its ads as, well, ‘Ads’, Zomato does no such thing, providing a true native ad experience for the restaurant partners.
Unless you are reviewing the UI like I am, you are highly unlikely to notice the word ‘Ad’ on the bottom right of this Swiggy listing. Zomato doesn’t take that risk.
Zomato forayed into food delivery in 2015, and it was only much later that they decided to own their own fleet of delivery executives instead of relying completely on third party delivery services. Even now, the delivery of food happens in tandem with 3rd party vendors like Runnr. Zomato believes that a food delivery service alone does not make economic sense in India. Even though the landscape has changed from 1 million orders a day in 2016 to more than 50 million a day in 2019, Zomato’s CEO Mr. Goyal still believes that they must capitalize on sales generated through ads on their platform, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs vis-a-vis organic sales and attain profitability. This is a good thing if you are opening a new restaurant in your area since Zomato can help you in giving exposure to thousands of potential customers.
As a consumer, I would much rather prefer Swiggy’s organic listing with some native and labeled ads over Zomato’s listing where you never know which one is an Ad targeted to you and which one is an organic listing. Swiggy as a company believes that while the current food delivery and restaurant ecosystem might not be financially viable, they want to build this ecosystem to a point where it is profitable. Initiatives like Swiggy Access in Marathalli and Bellandur areas of Bengaluru are testaments of this.
How does all this affect the UI of the two apps? Meet the two search bars on Zomato that make no sense on the get-go:
If you look closely, you can see two search menus in the Zomato UI. One on the middle of the screen, which is meant exclusively for search within food delivery restaurant menus. The other one is on the bottom right corner, which mixes food delivery restaurant results with the restaurant finder results and makes for a very incomprehensive, irregular search result.
So What’s Next?
There is no doubt that both the players have taken different routes in the infant food delivery market in India. Swiggy has a lot of market research and building left to do before it turns profitable, and given their lofty ambitions of being the ‘King of Convenience’ and the ‘largest employer in India’ in the upcoming years, they just might cash in the deal. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Zomato is a lost cause. It is a strong company with a solid advertisement business that is being replicated by the likes of Uber Eats and Swiggy itself. But for now, the big question they must ask themselves is about their identity as a combined restaurant finder and food delivery service. It would be interesting to see how they resolve the clashes in their UI and their business model.
But one thing is clear – if you are hungry, food is always available!