Digitization isn’t just technology or IT. It’s about people, working environments, working differently, and perhaps also thinking differently. This is why the CEO decided on a greenfield approach and not a classic integration approach. At its core, it’s always about the questions: how do I digitize my team? How do I make them agile? How doI use that to change how they work and what technology do I use?
When integration fails, it’s not because of the structures, it’s because of the people. One of the strengths of our team is certainly that we engage in integration and collaboration with colleagues right from the start, and that none of us have forgotten the founding idea behind REWE digital, forgotten where we came from, whom we need to take with us. We definitely have a certain corporate sophistication, if you will, but it’s not especially pronounced in anyone’s ego.
With our own fleet of vehicles, we deliver around 20,000 products within a radius of 90 minutes by car from the facility in Northern Cologne. We’re also working on a hub-and-spoke system with logistics partners who will take over additional routes. We are looking at using the new central warehouse as a distribution center, where we’re picking orders today to deliver to online customers, to allow us to gradually eliminate some of the normal stores. Even in our so-called ‘dark stores’, where there are no customers, a picker can walk up to 9 miles in a shift. This walking is completely eliminated in the new center, since the goods come to the picker automatically. More efficiency, more convenience for the customers, and less cost – this is the experience we’re getting with the food fulfillment center.
The way we currently curate our ‘Shop in Shops’ in REWE shops is how we will do it in the online marketplace. Every baker, every butcher, even regional employees who occasionally go from store to store need to meet dedicated product and service quality criteria that our customers simply expect. This is a big difference from operators of other online marketplaces who aren’t concerned with acting as curators. We, on the other hand, incorporate it and use it to continue online what the standard is in the real world.
Voice commerce will be the biggest thing to simplify the customer’s purchase process, not least because of the major changes we’re experiencing in the mobile world. For us, with a view to the technology needed in the background, it will be anything but trivial. You’ll have to, for example, add artificial intelligence to the processes needed to interact with customers who buy via voice. This means your domain knowledge – about the variety of cold cuts at your counter, the option of the customer getting ham sliced thick or shaved, etc. – you have to instill that in a digital assistant interacting with the customer. Siri, Alexa, Bixby and Co. don’t have the intelligence for this, only we do, because only we know what the customer wants, what their preferences are, their purchase history, and we don’t have to ask the same questions every time. Of course, this means every voice commerce customer has to identify themselves. If anonymized, “voice” would remain rather dumb. It’s the same as in a real store where our sales people in many cases know their customers or immediately recognize them: the potential for improving their service lies in knowing who they’re dealing with.
Absolutely. If we take Austria, for example, customers are very interested in that kind of exchange. We have a very promotion-driven market there, subsequently, for example, our national benefits club card has a penetration rate of over 80 percent. For better prices and making their shopping plans easier, customers in Austria are very open to giving us information about themselves, which puts them a bit ahead of our customers in Germany. But even our payback card is going very well here, both with customers who shop online and customers in real stores. That is: customers understand this “give and take” and want it more and more.
If we’re talking about “real-time”, we still need some time. Then we’ll be equipped to immediately add new information provided by the customer. Ultimately, the whole thing naturally needs to make sense to the customer. Not least with this meaning, we also consider the European General Data Protection Regulation in effect since May as corrective not throughout, but in a series of aspects.
We’re also following several courses there. One regular tool is our “REWE Hackdays,” where we try out and develop new services as well as entirely new business ideas. One of these is our recipe mapper. In principle, it’s an AI solution customers can use to automatically have a shopping cart put together following a recipe they found online. A great solution, widespread acceptance, developed during the Hackdays within 48 hours. It’s where we invite outsiders in to help us think laterally, out in left field and just differently. Of course, we also work with venture capital and our own start-ups.
“WiFi in the supermarket is as essential as light, water, and power.”