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Rail Stations Prove New Platform for Taiwan's E-food Operators

Chilled lockers at MRT hubs seen as optimum delivery option for Taipei's time-challenged office workers.

Photo: Are rail stations the end of the line for home food deliveries? (Shutterstock.com)
Are rail stations the end of the line for home food deliveries?
Photo: Are rail stations the end of the line for home food deliveries? (Shutterstock.com)
Are rail stations the end of the line for home food deliveries?

The option of in-station collection at one of the city's MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) hubs is the latest tactic being used to woo Taipei's growing army of online shoppers. Typically, consumers can now order fresh groceries and other food items and then pick them up from a designated station close to their work or home.

Primarily targetted at office workers – consumers typically obliged to leave for work early and return late – the new system particularly benefits those who have no-one at home receive grocery deliveries. With busy, full-time employed women the focus of the initiative's marketing activity, many such consumers are now said to be utilising the specially-installed MRT lockers to collect their daily groceries.

The introduction of the MRT collection points is being billed as the next stage in the evolution of the city's e-commerce infrastructure. It is seen as a logical extension of the earlier growth in the number of fresh grocery e-shops serving Taipei consumers, with many of these keen to find delivery options better suited to the lifestyles of the city's busy office workers.

Previously, imprecise home delivery times had deterred many such consumers from ordering groceries on-line. Now, however, the provision of the chilled lockers allows for those consumers to collect their orders at their own convenience, with the facility available throughout the 6am to midnight operational hours of the MRT network.

To use the service, consumers only need to order their fresh groceries via the dedicated mobile app and then designate a convenient MRT station as their chosen collection point. Ordered products can then be collected the following day during the buyer's after-work journey home. At present, the system is being trialed at seven of the city's MRT stations, all chosen for their lack of proximity to alternative shopping facilities.

Prior to delivery to the designated station, all of the food is specially prepared at dedicated facilities established by the online grocery providers. Ingredients can be sorted in line with specified recipes or even prepared as cooked food. The produce is then packaged and, where necessary, freeze-dried before being delivered.

Inevitably, the delivery and preparation all adds to the costs to the consumer. Typically, an online food delivery suitable for a family of four might be marked up by as much as 80% compared to the costs of the ingredients if individually purchased at a wet market. Many consumers, however, seem happy to pay a premium for the convenience offered by the service.

At present, the food lockers can be adjusted to room temperature, chilled or frozen settings, depending on the requirements of the individual delivery. The uptake of these centralised delivery points is also expected to help operators cut down on fuel and logistics costs.

Tammy Hsieh, Taiwan Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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