A look at Ele.ma: more than just a food delivery app

Aggiornamento: 19 feb 2021

Di Barbara Violato


Have you ever heard the term 外卖 waimai “Takeout”?

Since delivery services starter spreading in China, it has become particularly common there. An online survey launched in 2019 revealed that around 23% of 40,000 respondents in China order takeout on a daily basis; nearly 53% of respondents also revealed they order food delivery from one to five times a week.


Talking about food delivery, there’s a great number of apps dedicated to this service, but the most famous and successful are Ele.me and Meituan, which covered about 90% of the whole delivery market in China.

Let’s find out how Ele.me works and what are how it is different from the other food delivery apps used outside China.

How does Ele.ma work?

Starting using Ele.me in China is quick and easy:

  1. download the free app from the store;

  2. register your account (you can log in using your Taobao, Weibo, QQ, Wechat, Alipay account, or simply with your Chinese mobile phone number);

  3. insert your location, add some basic personal information, your address and you are done and. now ready to place your order.

While choosing what to eat, you can browse all available restaurants closest to your area, with related meals, discounts, distance to your location and average delivery time. Of course you can also filter restaurants depending on distance, popularity or a combination of both.

After choosing a restaurant, you’ll see all the available dishes, also with prices, monthly sales and, obviously, ratings. As you know, Chinese people love reviews and trust each other, that’s why this kind of apps allow users to rate single dishes, not only restaurants.

But surprises don’t end here.


What are the main differences from Ele.me and the most successful delivery app used outside China?

The biggest difference between Ele.me and delivery apps such as Glovo and Just Eat (even if during Covid-19 health emergency they tried to widen the boundaries of the services offered) is the following one: in the homepage, you have a search bar on the top of the page, then ten icons below, all having a specific function. The first icon obviously represents general food and restaurants, then you have convenience stores, fruit, pay someone to go buy something for you that maybe isn’t on the normal ele.me, sweet drinks like smoothies and milkshakes, top rated, pharmacies, places with discount, courier services, and collect hongbao (red envelopes related to Wechat). Below that are three boxes that link you to other websites where you can buy movie tickets, book a hotel, and buy train tickets. Now it’s quite clear why Ele.me is much more than just a food delivery app.

Moreover, if you use Ele.me more than once, the app algorithm will be able to learn your tastes and will understand what kind of foods you prefer. That’s why if you open the app and scroll down the homepage, below a bunch of links under the banner of discounted stuff, you’ll find a list of options that the app recommends after collecting data from your previous orders.

It doesn’t end here: if you continue scrolling down the homepage, you’ll also see the list of things you’ve bought before that are in your area, in order to help you with regular purchases.


Keep going down and you’ll get to a list of places closest to your position that don’t deliver, strongly recommended by Ele.me.

Considering all the things written above, the fact that in China there’s more than one app to solve any kind of problems and needs, and that all people (from youngest to oldest) use mobile phone to order food, buy things and book travels, it’s not difficult to understand why in this period of health emergency, Chinese people had less problems than many other countries’ population to stay home.


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