Hardly any other industry is more complex and subject to more regulations than the food industry – from complying with storage cold chains and sensitive packaging processes to product replacement provisions. When filling your shopping basket online at REWE, it’s hard to imagine what is ultimately behind the processing of the order. 

A pot of basil is packaged and cooled differently than a bottle of milk. This might sound simple, but it has its pitfalls when it comes to commissioning. To handle these processes, REWE digital has developed software that fully depicts all of the fulfillment processes – from the moment the order is placed through to being dispatched or issued via Click & Collect. This solution is here to stay, and REWE was able to prove this especially during the lockdown. With this “trial by fire,” the software has proven to endure one of the most complex trading environments and is, therefore, also suitable for use in other industries. 

Since late summer 2020, the solution from fulfillmenttools, which is based on the same platform technology as that of REWE digital, has been available to all retail companies as software-as-a-service (SaaS). We spoke to Björn Dröschel, Managing Director Product & Technology at fulfillmenttools about the chances of shifting sales to online trading and the individual adaptability of the software.

Björn Dröschel

Björn Dröschel, Managing Director Product & Technology fulfillmenttools

1. How exactly are REWE digital’s delivery and pick-up services connected to fulfillmenttools?

Björn Dröschel: REWE has been a pioneer and market leader in online ordering, delivery and pick-up services for groceries in Germany since 2014. Over the past few years, these services have been gradually expanded and a separate fulfillment platform has been developed. Part of the software has been further developed under the name fulfillmenttools and is now available as a SaaS solution to retailers in all industries for their digital future. As the first SaaS provider in the REWE portfolio, our “sister company” commercetools has already demonstrated that this approach works with its eCommerce solution.

2. fulfillmenttools is a REWE digital subsidiary. Why was the start in the food sector exactly the right thing to do, for it to survive now on the market as fulfillment software for retailers in all industries?

Björn Dröschel: Offering groceries online, commissioning them, delivering them or making them available for pick-up – all of course within the time frames requested by customers and with the highest level of service – that is a fine art. REWE is undisputedly maintaining its market leadership and innovative strength in this area in Germany. The requirements in food fulfillment are complex and multi-layered: Legal requirements for cooling zones, for example, as well as the service requirements for replacement items and the quality of the products are higher than in almost any other industry – and all the more delicate in Germany due to all kinds of regulations. 

Thanks to the fulfillment platform specially created for REWE, we’ve mastered these challenges and implemented complex, highly perfected processes and systems. Partially due to this future-proof technology infrastructure of our software solution, REWE was able in spring 2020 – during the first lockdown – to double the pick-up service locations within a very short time.

fulfillmenttools was developed from this DNA. As a result, both the platform itself and our team bring a lot of retail and tech expertise to the table, which also provides other industries, such as fashion, consumer electronics or leisure with a valuable competitive advantage. We have built our solution so flexibly that it can be applied to all types of pick-up and delivery models. This makes it possible to equip even the most complex omnichannel offers from retailers with the right processes, so that they can offer their customers modern services, such as Click & Collect, based on their existing IT infrastructure.

fulfillmenttools

3. fulfillmenttools has been on the market as a software solution since late summer 2020. Why does the market need new solutions in the fulfillment area? And what is the difference between fulfillment tools and solutions from other software providers?

Björn Dröschel: The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the years-long standing shift in turnover to online even faster than experts forecasted. All retail companies, whether large chains or small retailers, should therefore react quickly and learn to turn the growing eCommerce turnover into an opportunity – and at the same time use the existing branch network flexibly. This is especially because customers today expect short delivery times, high availability of goods and an optimal omnichannel shopping experience.

The fulfillment processes’ flexible adaptation to the increase of online trade plays a major role in both developments. When looking for a solution, many retailers are happy to be able to rely on established systems instead of having to develop them in-house. This is where fulfillmenttools comes into play. 

Thanks to our modern software architecture, which is based on the API-first approach, we can guarantee our customers rapid integration into their existing systems – an important deciding factor, especially in the current situation. Moreover, thanks to the modular structure, our platform can be adapted to specific customer needs and implemented step by step. For these reasons and because the platform is cloud-based, functionalities grow with the retailer – and at their own individual pace. 

What truly sets us apart from other players in the market is the already mentioned origin in retail and REWE’s “Made in Germany” quality seal. This enables us to understand the challenges and needs on both a technical and a procedural level.

This interview is part of our blog series on commerce solutions in the food industry. In part one, 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. For part three, we interviewed Dirk Hoerig, CEO at commercetools on how different commerce software solutions can best integrate with one another, using REWE digital as an example.