Inside the Finnish retailer bringing real personalisation to bricks-and-mortar stores
Carat won in the ‘New Product or Service Launch Strategy of the Year’ category at The Drum Marketing Awards 2019 for its ‘Block Wish’ campaign for Finnish retailer HOK-Elanto / S-Group. With the 2020 awards now open for entries, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.
Increasingly personalised online shopping is changing the way we are wired. We have come to expect similar personalised experiences in the physical world as well. Even when buying our daily groceries.
However, at Finnish brick and mortar grocery chain giants S-Group, the service and selection have stayed the same for decades. Meanwhile switching staff for automatization and self-checkouts, the in-store experience in these stores becomes even more distant and impersonalised. The shoppers’ feedback and ideas go unheard down the empty aisles.
S Group is Finland’s biggest grocery store chain. Their crown jewel – Alepa – takes pride in being the official corner store of local communities. Despite this, all Alepas and their product selections have traditionally been almost identical. To change the status quo, Alepa started a drastic customization of their brick and mortar to reflect the lifestyles and flavor palates of their surrounding communities.
Although Alepa offer most day-to-day grocery products, the stores are unable to stock every imaginable product in their selection and the absence of single missing product (i.e. the favoured coffee or oat milk brand) can result in losing the customer to other local suppliers.
To tackle this issue, we introduced ‘Alepa Block Wishes’ – a hyperlocal digital initiative and a logistics and production-line turnaround. With the help of a chatbot, customers could request their favorite products to be added on the shelves of their local Alepa straight from their mobile phones Messenger app.
All neighborhoods have their own flavors and unique mix of people. To match their grocery needs we wanted to give the power back to community and let them tell us what products to have in each store and stop guessing. We knew from the past that quiet Finns don’t feel comfortable asking anything from the shop personnel if they are not 100% certain what they are wishing.
To spread the word about the Block Wish we used our own channels: stores, personnel, customer emails with little help of bought media (mainly social media).
From the day one the chat bot was instant success. We built the Facebook Messenger chatbot with integrations to all S Group SKU level product data and shop locations. Customers could wish any products they imagined from the bot, which then searched matching product from S Group databases using meta data and returned best matching products within milliseconds to the chat.
From these products customers could send their Block Wish to closest Alepa based on their location. If needed they could send the Block Wish to any Alepa based on the name of the neighborhood. The logistics and product line changes were made automatically. 70% of the wishes were fulfilled within 48 hours.
After introducing Alepa Block Wishes, the selection in each neighborhood started to change rapidly. Block Wishes became an instant hit. In a time of retail revolution, the previously prehistoric Alepa store chain managed to evolve into a network of corner stores to hip local shops with unique selections.
Alepa Block Wishes changed the way grocery stores determine their product selection in Finland.
- Alepa has received 150,000 product wishes since starting the Block Wish;
- 70% of wishes were fulfilled within 48 hours;
- Block Wishes has been expanded to over 90 neighborhoods;
- In most active neighborhoods up to 25% of Alepa store selection is customised by Block Wishes;
- 9 out of 10 customers say that Block Wishes are beneficial for them;
- 22% customers have made block wish and 56% are about to do so in the near future;
- Brand measures sky-rocketed (Selection fits my needs +12 points; Alepa actively improves it services +9 points).
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