How Checkers quietly won the delivery app wars


I didn’t really believe that Checkers would actually take sixty minutes to deliver the groceries I had just ordered, but I was happy to get them on the same day.

I’d heard people raving about the new Sixty60 app even before that economic elephant called the Covid-19 lockdown that trampled on us.

But the reason I had downloaded it was because I’d seen the advert in the Daily Maverick newspaper. Not only was I pleased to see the launch of a new newspaper (a good democracy needs all the voices it can get), but a decent share of advertising, including a rather cheeky Checkers ad in a newspaper sold exclusively through Pick ‘n Pay stores.

I like a good (digital) underdog. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly good Checker’s new app is.

Firstly, it does take the advertised time. That alone was noteworthy.

But the most enjoyable thing is how slick the m-commerce interface is. As a long-time online shopper, I’ve been beta tested by everyone since Amazon. Some mobile apps are, well, frustrating. The interface isn’t optimised properly for mobile, so buying something, or adding it to a wish list, can require multiple click0throughs to individual pages, then back. Again. And again.

‘Appy with Checkers

What a joy that Sixty60 lets you add a product or change the number you’re buying or delete it right next to the search result. It’s resulted in a much smoother, less time-wasting experience.


I’ve watched how the app has evolved over the last few months. The latest iteration offered a helpful option to select an alternative (this is a broad category option at checkout, and which I always say don’t bother). As usual, I skipped them all.

Uncharacteristically, because I despise unnecessary notifications as much as Jacob Zuma hates accountability, I left them on.

During my last order, I noticed the notifications coming through, in real time, as someone packed my basket at the Blu-bird store, which is the closest. As the missing items came up, I was offered an option for replacements and ticked the alternatives. It was slick and simple. When you select an item, it offers the option to select an alternative, which I skipped the first time because of time. Now, as I fill in each product with alternatives, the system automatically selects them for me.

Checkers deservedly won its category in the MTN Business app of the year awards last month. It’s one of the many signs of how South Africans have adapted to ecommerce during the forced scenario of lockdown, and it’s a good thing for both consumers and business in general.

The context is important. I have been buying groceries for my 92-year-old mother for the last few years – hi Ma – and delivering them to her retirement estate. When lockdown happened in March, the estate quite rightly took a very hard line and stuck to a strict lockdown. It meant I didn’t see my mother for several months, and then, as restrictions eased, I would drop off groceries and we could talk at the pedestrian gate.

But when level one was imposed, the estate opened the gates and I now send deliveries directly to her (the security guards still receive and sterilise packets).

In defence of Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay, I haven’t tried deliveries for months because they were clearly slammed during lockdown. It went from a week in advance, with Woolies, to two weeks to book a delivery date. Similarly, with Pick ‘n Pay – although we used click-and-collect with both, which was only a few days in advance. I will check back to see if that has changed. In the meantime, Checkers has quietly won the delivery app wars – at least in my household.

This article first appeared in the Financial Mail.



About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."


  1. Fantastic job done by the Checkers, RTT and Zulzi team for building such an amazing platform that has delivered to many customers their real first on-demand experience.

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