Market Kurly’s Next-Morning Delivery of Fresh Groceries is a Huge Hit in Korea
For Market Kurly’s delivery drivers, the work day starts at 8pm—that’s when the first wave of groceries are ready to be loaded into each person’s respective car. From there, a delivery management system pinpoints the best route for each drop off throughout Seoul and its surrounding area. Perhaps first to Hongdae, swing around past Itaewon, and then end the day in Dongdaemun, with all orders needing to be dropped off by 7am, as is the company’s promise with its next morning delivery.
Just as the delivery drivers are wrapping up their early morning runs, the Market Kurly customer care staff members are clocking on. They handle any mistakes made. Wrong items, delayed deliveries, really anything that would detract from a stellar Market Kurly experience. Calls are fielded and tickets are resolved throughout the following day, while at the same time a complex logistics engine is working in the background to predict what will be needed for the oncoming waves of orders.
Then at 7pm, customers are able to load up their carts for tomorrow’s delivery, and it all starts again.
Such is life at the red-hot grocery-delivery startup. While many early-stage companies boast about the long hours they work to get something off the ground, few can say they operate on a similar workday schedule as Market Kurly: 24 hours a day.
That said, it’s really what the team signed up for with its business model. Boiling it down, Market Kurly offers its customers the ability to place an order for fresh groceries before they go to sleep and have that bag of goods sitting on their doorstep when they wake up. Much inline with what is seen with Amazon Prime’s 2-hour grocery delivery or the success of Postmates, the startup is banking on the fact that people are constantly looking for ways to save time. Why go to the grocery store or a restaurant when you can have it delivered right to your door?
And just as delivery has taken a firm foothold in various markets around the world, Market Kurly has seen remarkable success within its home country of South Korea. Founded in 2015, the company recorded ~$2.9 million in revenue its first year. When compared to the ~$157 million in revenue seen in 2018, it’s clear they’re on to something.
Managing that scale, along with the continual cycle of orders and deliveries, has offered up a variety of technical challenges, many of which the company uses AWS to help solve for, per company CTO Sangseok Lim.
“In the early days, the team set out to build the commerce and logistics systems by patchworking multiple external solutions, which worked great when we started out and were processing 3,000-4,000 small orders. But as our company scaled rapidly, that system started to buckle. To fix for this, my team took on the huge project of transferring our existing infrastructure to AWS, converting both logistics and commerce into a monolithic structure supported by various microservices.”
The benefits were not just seen in a more reliable system, but also in the working hours for Lim’s team. When the previous system would falter under the load, his team had to be ready to create a patch, and then monitor their solution through the delivery process. With deliveries going on into the early hours of the morning, this meant for many long days and nights. Since their migration to AWS—which was completed in June of 2019—the technical team has thankfully been given back a more normal sleep schedule.
Outside of building systems to support a rapidly growing customer base, there’s also the challenge of working with fresh food. One of the allures of Market Kurly is that they offer only a couple select options for each product type, with a focus being put on the quality. Even with that heavily curated selection, the company still boasts roughly 10,000 SKUs in its system, with 80% falling in the fresh food category. Many of these products have a shelf life of two to three days, making predictability and forecasting of the utmost importance to negate unnecessary waste, as Lim puts it.
“Since prediction is so important to us, we’ve built out an internal data analytics team to focus precisely on that. To date, they’ve built 3-4 forecasting algorithms that we constantly run our data through to better guide our actions. Moving forward, however, we’re looking to integrate AI and AWS Managed Services as we build out this data platform.”
Looking ahead, Market Kurly is posed for some serious expansion. Having raised $113 million of venture capital in 2019 alone, the company is very well financed and is putting part of that investment to work building another logistics center that will service eastern Seoul (their existing one is closer to the west side of the capital city). Not only will the new location help them serve more customers, it will also be three times the size of its predecessor.
That said, Lim stresses that the Market Kurly team is really just focused on providing better service today than yesterday. It’s easy to get distracted by other competitors in the market, or any of the other number of things startups need to deal with, but this simple mindset sets them on a great path forward.