The food industry is vital for people’s survival, and due to COVID-19 posing several challenges for retailers, is searching for solutions to protect customers and employees. With REWE digital, the REWE Group was already an expert in the complexities of online grocery retail. And that’s why they were exceptionally prepared during the pandemic.
REWE Group was able to introduce flexible concepts, such as Click & Collect or online supermarkets with delivery, to reduce contact while still ensuring supply – all at their usual high standards. And that’s not all: since the spring of 2020, REWE digital has succeeded in increasing the number of stores that, for example, offer a REWE pick-up service, doubling those numbers – from around 500 to 1,000 – within a very short time.
But how is such a tour de force possible? It’s easy – with the right software. REWE digital, as a long-standing partner of commercetools, has already laid the foundation for successful eCommerce. At the same time, they developed their brilliant fulfillment software in-house, which depicts one of the most complex areas of online grocery shopping: from the commissioning to the dispatch of orders.
As a spin-off from REWE digital, the start-up OC fulfillment from Cologne relies on the same state-of-the-art technologies. Their solution, which has been available to retailers from all industries since September 2020, is appropriately called fulfillmenttools. We spoke to Dr. Robert Zores, CTO at REWE digital, on the challenges that the food market brings with it and why it is worth investing in smart commerce solutions.
Dr. Robert Zores, CTO at REWE digital
1. The solutions from commercetools and fulfillmenttools have made important contributions to the continued success of REWE in the eCommerce area. What exactly were they?
Dr. Robert Zores, CTO, REWE digital: On the one hand, investing in commercetools early on helped us to provide our customers with fast and scalable services for ordering food online. Today’s customers are used to high standards and comprehensive service offerings when it comes to eCommerce. It is already second nature for them to make purchases at the desired time on the channel that suits them.
With the help of the commercetools team, we have become a pioneer and market leader in the food sector – we now reach around 90% of the population with our delivery and pick-up services, and the package service additionally covers the entire country.
fulfillmenttools, on the other hand, is based on our own fulfillment platform, which was developed by REWE digital and efficiently organizes complex underlying processes, from online ordering to delivery, as well as the handover of the goods to the customer. Even during the conception of the partially automated warehouse in Niehl, we thought about developing a fulfillment solution that we also wanted to market.
2. Both software platforms are now also available to other customers. Why was the food industry exactly the right endurance test for both systems?
Robert Zores: Buying groceries is, in some ways, an emotional process for customers. Nowadays, we buy consciously, and we value quality and service. In addition, food – unlike tools or books – is a critical product in terms of legal requirements, but also especially in terms of perishability, storage and handling.
Salad, basil, minced meat or frozen pizza must be precisely cooled, carefully picked and delivered, as well as offered in the online shop with all the relevant information. When customers want to carry out same-day orders or change their order at the last minute, it becomes more complex than in any other industry. Since REWE digital started in 2014, we’ve learned, developed and advanced considerably.
There are certainly some start-ups that come up with good ideas. fulfillmenttools is a start-up with unique fulfillment know-how. This expertise has been available to retailers from all industries since 2020. With this retailer-DNA, the first direct spin-off from REWE digital offers an exceptional understanding of customer requirements.
3. To what extent do commercetools and fulfillmenttools complement each other perfectly in the eCommerce process – based on the example of the REWE pick-up service?
Robert Zores: We’ve always pursued an ambitious expansion strategy for our eCommerce offerings. However, the year 2020 and the pandemic posed an extraordinary challenge. This showed the efficiency and scalability of our processes.
The pick-up service is a good example, as it made the impacts and benefits for customers particularly clear. Within a few weeks, we were able to almost double the number of REWE stores with a pick-up service to over 1,000. Where others had to struggle with a lot of manpower and additional infrastructure to set up Click & Collect, we were able to scale our services, add markets organizationally and integrate them into the web and in the app.
It was certainly a feat of strength for the pick-up service team, which wouldn’t have been possible without our technological background, the commercetools’ solutions and the fulfillment platform on which fulfillmenttools is based.
This interview is part of our blog series on commerce solutions in the food industry. In part two, you’ll get even more insights into clever fulfillment strategies through our interview with Björn Dröschel, Managing Director Product & Technology at fulfillmenttools, and further details on eCommerce in the food industry from our conversation with Dirk Hoerig, CEO at commercetools in part three.
Do you want to get into the driver’s seat yourself and learn more about how to overcome new challenges in the food industry? Grab your free copy of our white paper, and learn more about the digital transformation in food and grocery retail on our website.