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THE GUIDE IN BRIEF

How the coronavirus pandemic transformed the delivery business

CAROLYN FIGEL for Quartz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

💡The Big Idea

On-demand delivery companies say their services are for everyone and built to scale. The coronavirus is giving them a chance to prove it.Here’s the TLDR on our latest member-exclusive field guide on home fitness.


🤔Here’s Why

1️⃣ In the wake of Covid-19, delivery companies have been presented with an unexpected and overwhelming opportunity.

2️⃣ Online grocery will be the biggest test of whether our coronavirus habits are here to stay.

3️⃣ If companies harness this moment successfully, they may find their business permanently altered.

4️⃣ The pandemic is forcing corporations and customers to think through their demands of delivery workers.

5️⃣ And it is connecting them with food in transformative ways.


📝 The Details

1️⃣ Delivery companies have been presented with an unexpected and overwhelming opportunity.

In the space of a month, on-demand delivery companies have transformed from a luxury of the rich to the connective tissue holding much of the economy together. Extreme societal changes demanded by the coronavirus pandemic have given these services an unprecedented opportunity. The measure of success will be whether the world’s consumers keep coming back when it’s a choice, and not simply a necessity.

2️⃣ Online grocery will be the biggest test of whether our coronavirus habits are here to stay.

Groceries have long been the holy grail of delivery. They are the ultimate staple: something every household needs and buys fairly frequently. That makes them a valuable anchor category for online retailers looking to keep customers coming back. The trouble is, selling groceries online is a lot harder than selling other things, and consumer habits are hard to change.

3️⃣ Successful companies will be permanently altered by the pandemic.

Until a few months ago, the first challenge for any on-demand service was getting customers through the virtual door. Startups tended to tackle this with promotions and discounts which concealed the true cost of delivery. The challenge for all forms of delivery services right now is to serve as many customers as well as possible at the current moment, in hopes that some of them will stick around after the pandemic ends, and that customers can potentially be weaned from discounts in the long run.

4️⃣ The pandemic is forcing customers and corporations to think through their demands of delivery workers.

Any time we summon food to our doors—whether basic groceries or indulgent takeout—delivery workers expose themselves to potential contagion en route. Failing to order food, though, only deprives delivery workers of income and takes money out of an already dismal economy. How we respond to this moral quandary is perhaps as important as how on-demand delivery companies are dealing with it.

5️⃣ And it is connecting us to food in transformative ways.

As the virus has spread and upended aspects of public life, it has forced people to confront uncomfortable norms within the food system. But it is also reconnecting people through delivery to food production, by providing a way for long-struggling local farm economies to connect with new customers. In some communities, that could give the slow-food movement a breath of life.