Just Eat: A new relationship with takeaway

Liam Laville
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Sometimes the most effective transformations occur when a business embraces innovation rather than meticulous design. We look for and explore emerging micro-behaviours, we design solutions that serve those needs, we develop working prototypes and test them, quickly. We would rather test and fail 100 times than scale stupidity. That’s how Just Eat has pivoted in just a few short years from performing a simple function – simplifying the ordering of takeaway meals – to engineering a data-fuelled ecosystem with relationships at its core.

We’d always intended on having these relationships when we launched more than a decade ago but hadn’t quite anticipated how we could be central to the building of them. And, in turn, the building of the business and our profits.

By using artificial intelligence and new technologies we’ve been able to create an extraordinarily intricate profile of our users. Our customers want a fast, fuss-free, personalised takeaway service, one which anticipates their desire and knows their favourite dishes, as well as when they’re most likely to order. And we try not to clutter them with unloved menus.

The restaurateurs who use our platform – and we have 100,000 of them in 13 countries around the world – want to know when and where peaks will arrive, who enjoys which dishes, what pricing works best and how they can maximise their resources by predicting tastes, orders and behaviours.

And there are also the courier services who need to plan ahead to keep both sides of the process happy – creator and consumer.

By listening to our customers and partners we’ve created an entirely new business model

In essence, we’re now a company that joins all of these elements into a seamless, mutually beneficial experience by capturing and analysing the data with remarkable accuracy, using machine learning, chatbots and smart algorithms. We utilise technology to make the takeaway process feel more relevant, instinctive and personalised. And always function in a way that enables us to learn perpetually, and to target our users more productively the more data we have.

However, the transformation isn’t just smart – it’s been grounded in business need. Everything we do has to be about growth, as well as keeping our partners satisfied. If those who make and deliver the food don’t grow, then neither will we. If those who order the food aren’t satisfied, then they won’t want to come back.

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Commercial instincts have driven this transformation. And data has been our rocket fuel in this transformation. It’s given us the ability to be predictive, not just reactive. To be viewed as a contributor to the eating experience rather than just a facilitator. To be an innovative, disruptive player improving what was once an occasionally frustrating and haphazard experience and making that as seamless as possible.

We're embedding AI and machine learning across our platforms. Our customer care chatbot can now respond to and take actions to resolve simple customer queries without having to get a human involved, freeing our people to handle the more complex or sensitive requests. As our customer base grows, AI enables us to scale where humans can't.

We're developing contextual awareness for our app too. Take Alexa and voice recognition, for example. If a customer wants to reorder something they ordered last week, our response needs to be different than for a customer who ordered two months ago – we can flex the customer journey to meet each customer's specific needs.

Data has been our rocket fuel in this transformation

It's all about ensuring we deliver a seamless online ordering experience for customers – building more personalisation into our product or predicting exactly when a customer will want their meal – which in turn helps restaurants optimise their processes, and couriers know when to arrive at a restaurant.

Just Eat is now as much a relationships business as anything, seeking to optimise these connections rather than influence them. The insights accrued from the data have given us the ability to transform. Just a decade ago we started out as a functional app – groundbreaking in its way but still limited in scope. Gradually, by listening to our customers and partners, measuring and then analysing their behaviours, we’ve created an entirely new business model.

You don’t always need to plan transformations such as this. Sometimes using new technologies, while being smart and agile enough to change tack according to the needs of partners and customers, can lead you to solutions you hadn’t anticipated.

For us, it’s simple. We’ve taken away the hassle of takeaways, from their kitchen to your home. We’ve used innovation to improve the human experience. And we’ve made eating not just a mutually beneficial experience but a relevant and personal one too – so we can deliver on our vision to serve the world’s greatest menu. Brilliantly.