Retail was quite possibly the segment of the economy that most suffered from advances in technology in the last decades. Betting on the weight of e-commerce as a natural result of increased access to the Internet and intelligent devices, new global players emerged and took the place of many centennial enterprises, which had reigned absolute during the time-tested model of physical sales.
Like any jungle that is considered as such, some of the most experienced players in the segment were able to correctly interpret this phenomenon in time, adapting to survive–even in a region, such as Latin America, with highs and lows that would be a challenge to any businessperson.
One of those survivors is the Carrefour group. The French chain arrived in Brazil in 1975 and is nowadays experiencing a full expansion. It has been investing in technology and flexible services like no other competitor, implementing both its own solutions and those offered with the help of strategic partnerships.
There are more than 650 points of sale in Brazil, all of them of the most diverse types: from small supermarkets (such as Carrefour Express) and convenience stores, to superstores (large stores that are a point of reference for Brazilians when they think of Carrefour). There are more than 100 hundred stores in this last model in the country.
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In 2017, the company was considered one of the 20 biggest enterprises listed in the Brazilian Stock Exchange (B3). The following year, Carrefour processed BRL 56.3 billion. It was literally the company that generated the most revenue in 2018, followed by the Group Pão de Açucar (BRL 53.6 billion), Via Varejo (BRL 30.5 billion), and Walmart (BRL 23 billion), according to a ranking released this Thursday (22) by the Brazilian Retail Executives Instituto (Ibevar) in partnership with the Administration Instituto Foundation (FIA).
Their good results are due to a series of changes based on the shifts in behavior of Brazilian consumers, shifts that established a new business front for the group, Carrefour eBusiness Brazil.
This year–as in 2018–Carrefour will invest close to BRL 1.9 billion in Brazil, primarily focusing on the technological evolution of their business. The new plans involve the development of three competencies: that of data, content and services (Carrefour wants to really know its customers and consider new products and services based on this knowledge); that of the last mile, which is the delivery of the product (in partnership with the startup Rappi); that of digital payments (a new race of retailers to the goal of the super app and a bigger presence in the daily life of clients).
“The idea of eBusiness is to transform Carrefour into a reference in omni-channels and a leader in grocery e-commerce,” said the group in a statement sent to LABS.
The three approaches of the “new Carrefour” that got the attention of consumers
Taking a look at Carrefour’s initiatives in 2019, alongside the significant investment in technology, one can notice the focus on increasing the channels through which their clients can make purchases.
In this sense, the three approaches captivated the attention of Brazilian consumers in the last few months.
The first of these approaches is the partnership with the delivery app Rappi. Created in Colombia, the service–which was the first player in our Latin America’s Trailblazers series in LABS–had in Brazil its biggest pool of clients and announced its partnership with the French group at the beginning of 2019.
In just the first trimester of the year, Carrefour’s sales via e-commerce (through its website or apps) grew 84%. Also this year, a new 24 hour frozen drinks service was announced, taking into account the type of consumption specific to Brazilian customers.
The second approach of 2019, an approach that can only be found in a few cities in the country, are the markets Click & Retire. Common in several retail chains in the United States, this functionality arrived in Brazil not too long ago and already has in Carrefour one of its most efficient followers.
According to the company, more than 100 stores should incorporate the service by the end of 2019. This service will be a perfect fit in the multi-channel strategy of the chain. Also this year, Carrefour intends to incorporate an option “Withdraw shopping cart” in 13 of its units and in more than 2,000 sellers (those sellers that participate in the group’s marketplace).
Carrefour also wants to incorporate 1.9 million Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) in its electronic marketplace. The term SKU refers to the stock code that each item has, something that is crucial in the control of storage in this new scale of multi-channels with which the group is working.
The third and last investment approach for this year is linked to the most varied modes of shopping that the brand offers: a unified profile for each client, called project One Carrefour.
According to the company, it exists with the “objective of having a single vision of the group’s clients, independently of the format of interactions, in addition to giving access to all the services by means of whichever customer service platform.” Today there are more than 13 million subscriptions in the My Carrefour platform.
Carina, Carrefour’s AI
The form of localizing and personalizing one’s own service, alongside the initiatives discussed above, came alive with Carina, the artificial intelligence that Carrefour launched at the beginning of the last trimester, following the trend of virtual assistants that help the customer understand what is the best way of interacting with the service.
Differently from telecommunications companies or banks, Carrefour gambled on a more mature visual for its AI. Carina is 42 years old. She provides customer service to clients via chatbot and Whatsapp, which is the favorite app of Brazilians to exchange messages–a responsiveness to the characteristics of each country or region where it offers its services is fundamental to the global success of the group.
The results of these investments are already manifesting. From April to June of this year, Carrefour registered liquid profits of BRL 419 million, 11% more than those of the same period last year.
Gross sales added BRL 15.3 billion, an increase of 12.9% above the second trimester of 2018. Notwithstanding the operations of Atacadão (a sales brand of the chain that deals with wholesale) having been responsible for the biggest portion of that growth, there was an increase of 9% in the sales that took place in “the store itself.” This means that, in general, all of Carrefour’s models are growing and this is due also to the investments in the three approaches cited at the beginning of this article.
With good results also in the first trimester, 2019 promises to be a new year of record revenues for the group in Brazil.
Translated by Axel Diniz