FEATURE16 July 2020

Deliveroo: Delivering data

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Covid-19 Data analytics Features Impact Retail Technology UK

Online food delivery increased during the Covid-19 lockdown, and Deliveroo is banking on data-sharing within the organisation to help keep its brand in the public eye. By Liam Kay

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Since social-distancing restrictions swept in earlier this year, many of those who liked to indulge in a meal out have had to rely on ordering online instead. And judging by the number of teal and white-clad cyclists slaloming through our towns and cities, there’s a good chance it is Deliveroo bringing the food.

Founded in 2013, the delivery company has hit the headlines recently. As with many of its competitors during the pandemic, Deliveroo has brought in new no-contact delivery policies and has been offering free meals for NHS workers. The company has also attracted new investment from Amazon. The Competition and Markets Authority has provisionally accepted the deal, but its investigation was not yet complete at the time of writing.

The company is a prominent part of a burgeoning food delivery industry that was worth £8.4bn in the UK in 2019, according to data from MCA Insight. This was an 18% increase on 2018, and the signs are that the sector will continue to grow in the years ahead.

Insights are at the heart of Deliveroo. Jake Steadman left Twitter last year to join the company as vice-president of customer insight. His focus is to develop policy and strategy in three areas: consumers buying meals through Deliveroo; riders delivering those meals; and the brand’s relationship with the restaurants that prepare them.

Steadman’s team is still relatively small. There are two people on the consumer team, another couple on Deliveroo’s rider team and one focusing on restaurants. Two more employees are multi-disciplinary and work on different parts of the customer experience team. But the team punches above its weight – data insights are widely used across the business, and access to data is a key part of the company’s philosophy.

It works closely with the behavioural insights department at Deliveroo, which is much larger and comprises several data scientists analysing the information collected from the company’s app, for example.

“What we do is overlay attitudinal data onto behavioural data,” Steadman says. “We know through our behavioural insights team what customers are doing and can infer why, but it’s my team’s responsibility to answer the ‘why’ holistically.”

Customer insight includes work on the impact of Deliveroo’s advertising and sponsorships, as well as brand tracking. The company has high-profile sponsorships in place with the Football Association and the ITV television show Saturday Night Takeaway.

With data so widely used across the organisation, collaboration is key. The company uses a system of “guilds” to allow people to focus on each of the three parts of its business model – consumers, riders and restaurants – and share data with other colleagues working elsewhere in the firm. For example, the consumer knowledge guild includes everyone responsible for understanding the consumer in the insights, user research and business intelligence teams.

“There are lots of different teams analysing data, and we can sometimes answer similar questions,” Steadman says. “The executive team may ask us about future trends for the takeaway industry, but they will also ask for that from other teams. We answer them collaboratively. We work in partnership with our peers to provide a holistic answer to the customer, whether that is a consumer, rider or restaurant.”



Deliveroo may be a tech start-up at home in today’s digital world, but it is not immune to the stresses and strains created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Delivery riders are at risk, while restaurants have been closed in the lockdown. The economic fallout expected in the months and years ahead will also have an impact on restaurant partners.

However, Deliveroo has adjusted. Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, and numerous small newsagents and corner shops have joined as customers in the ‘restaurants’ section of the business. This is in addition to putting in place the no-contact delivery policy, and free meals for NHS workers.

Insights have played a role in the adoption of these policies, albeit as part of a broader team effort. Deliveroo has a daily tracker for Covid-19, run with Kantar, that helped influence company strategy in response to the lockdown (see boxout, ‘Changing direction', below). Steadman stresses that his team is not the only one involved in influencing these policy and strategy decisions – “it is always a collaboration and triangulation of multiple data points” – but it has helped inform the company’s approach to the pandemic.

“Consumers are still thinking about what this means, what the ‘new normal’ means and what roles brands play within that,” Steadman says. “I think they appreciate things like contactless delivery, and our work supporting the NHS is certainly a positive, as we want to help. As an employee, I am proud of those initiatives. In terms of the broader impact on consumer opinions, we need to keep working hard, helping and supporting. It is too early to say what the ‘new normal’ will be.”

Deliveroo has also launched its first research community to get a better insight into its customers, particularly during this uncertain time. The community is run in partnership with ResearchBods.

“It is going to be an important tool to allow us to be much more agile in how we handle the different challenges the business has, especially around Covid-19, where we may need to get insight from customers very quickly,” Steadman says.


Deliveroo’s principle of democratising data broadly means that almost anyone in the main business can access behavioural and attitudinal data held by individual teams. The company has an API integration between its behavioural insight tool, Looker, and its brand tracker to allow people across the company to see the information uncovered by the tracker. This brings its own challenges, and Steadman says his team has to ensure its data is not only accurate, but able to be understood and used by others across Deliveroo.

“We have to be conscious that people may be telling stories using data that we, as the customer insight team, own. This means we have to be super tight methodologically to make sure all the data we put into the business is right, accurate, easy to digest and understand,” he says.

“In terms of how we report, we first do it collaboratively with the other teams and guilds. As far as possible, we build a cohesive story that covers both behavioural and attitudinal data.”

Steadman’s time at Twitter has also influenced his approach to presenting insights data to a wider audience. According to Steadman, Twitter used a concept called the ‘theatre of research’ to help make information more memorable to others, and to ensure the main insights taken from a piece of research were the correct ones.

“If you present 100 graphs on 100 PowerPoint slides, everyone is going to switch off at some point and remember one key point differently,” he says.

“So, we are making sure we tell our stories in a really compelling, creative way that is memorable and emphasises the key points. I have carried that over from Twitter to Deliveroo, and we try to think creatively about how we deliver our messages outside of just another presentation.”

Steadman says the level of collaboration needed to maintain this approach is one of his team’s biggest challenges. “We know what we are doing well in terms of customer insight, but when a company is growing at the speed we are, it is vital that we work with other teams to ensure there is no duplication or inefficiencies being introduced into the system,” he says. “That is a challenge – it takes time to build those relationships and to share what you are doing consistently across the business.”

Despite this, Steadman feels that Deliveroo’s approach to data and its API integration with Looker is “the future”. He says he is unaware of any other firm using a similar system. There remain challenges – the potential for data to be misinterpreted is chief among them – but he argues that the positives outweigh those risks and his team is taking steps to mitigate the potential for mistakes.

“As business intelligence or data science functions become bigger within organisations, how the existing customer insight team partners with them is critical,” Steadman says.

“We are inputting our data into Looker because it is much more actionable, efficient and democratised.”

The team doesn’t yet have all the answers, however. “One of the challenges with the democratisation of data is that once it is democratised, how do you control the narrative? To a certain extent, you do not. You need to make sure that the right data goes into the system in the first place and that it tells a very clear story.

“We need to make sure that, as our data is being used and analysed within the organisation, we are part of those conversations.”


Changing direction

The customer insight team recently introduced a daily Covid-19 tracker run by Kantar. The suddenness of the coronavirus pandemic left precious little time for companies to adjust before social-distancing restrictions were imposed and working from home became mandatory for many.

Such an extreme overnight change in culture and lifestyle meant it was important for Deliveroo to assess what the impact could be on the brand, and how its customers were changing their behaviour in response to the pandemic.

“As soon lockdown was implemented in the UK, we knew we needed to monitor customer perceptions in relation to our brand and category closely,” Steadman says.

“‘White label’ solutions were beginning to come onto the market, but none felt specific enough for us or our customers. In 48 hours, we had briefed, designed and commissioned a daily tracker, with initial results every 24 hours thereafter, reporting to the entire business.”

The move is an example of how the team – and Deliveroo more broadly – can respond to events, according to Steadman. As late as January, a worldwide pandemic was on few people’s radar, and yet most of the world had entered some form of lockdown by the time spring had begun.

“It’s a good example of how quickly we can make decisions and change direction as an insight function,” he says. “We had to pause multiple strategic projects, including our customer segmentation, in order to free the resource needed.”

As the situation with Covid-19 calmed and settled into a new status quo, Steadman’s team decided to shift from running a daily tracker to every couple of days. But with a great deal of uncertainty over the future of the pandemic, it remains an asset to the company’s future planning.

This article was first published in the July 2020 issue of Impact.