E-commerce is probably at an unprecedented peak these days. According to Malaysian universal bank Maybank as stated in an Inquirer.net article, “The newfound habit of ordering food online or through mobile apps was expected to spill over to a wider array of goods and services offered on the internet.” 

The increasing demand for delivery services has led to certain trends, such as employing personal shoppers in grocery stores to accommodate customer needs without having to leave their home. Forbes has also predicted the upcoming trends in grocery shopping for the next five years, which includes technological innovations like robot shopping assistants

In the US, the online business OpenTable (which was initially meant for table reservations on restaurants) has redesigned its platform to accommodate reservations for grocery shopping during COVID-19. 

According to its website, reservations work in two ways: reserving a time slot for shopping and joining an online waitlist. The former works like any other online reservation system—picking a desired time and date at any participating grocery store or supermarket. The latter serves as a virtual queue that notifies the customer via text message on their turn to shop.

“Not only does this help control crowds in a simple and contactless way, but it also provides a safer option for shoppers, especially those at high risk, to get their groceries without waiting in a crowded line,” reads OpenTable’s website. This simple innovation helps people practice social distancing by limiting foot traffic in stores while keeping schedules and efficiency intact. 

Meanwhile in the Philippines, the government has imposed rules and regulations concerning safe shopping in grocery stores and supermarkets. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has suggested that supermarkets and stores extend their store hours to accommodate more shoppers given their time restrictions due to quarantine rules. This suggestion is supported by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease by allowing the said stores to open for at most 12 hours. This also aims to lessen the volume of shoppers at a given time.

DTI also issued a memorandum about prioritizing senior citizens as they are at great risk just by being exposed to a crowd of people lining up and waiting for their turn. Other people who are also at risk during this time are pregnant women, people with disability and those who are immunocompromised.

Comparing these policies to OpenTable’s initiative, issues like delivery delays and order cancellations, inaccurate purchasing of specific products and brands, limited areas covered and quality assurance can be solved if consumers can personally do the shopping instead of employing personal shoppers through third-party apps. Local apps like Zomato and Booky can look into adopting this innovation for a broader scope and market aside from table reservations and food delivery services. 

Technological innovations will continue to grow and advance to help both businesses and consumers, not just in terms of profit but also in terms of convenience and safety.

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