More than 1,800 retailers help shape the company.
REWE RETAILERS AND HEADQUARTERS
REWE Group is working with its retailers in a range of committees to find out at an early stage what services customers want, whether shopping in stores or online.
A total of 7,503 residents, spread out over 13 far-flung districts – welcome to Homberg (Ohm), a town in the middle of the central German triangle of Marburg-Bad Hersfeld-Giessen. Any supermarket that plans to stay in business here has to offer something more than just an opportunity to make a shopping trip. This is something that Michael Fricke, a REWE retailer in Homberg for more than 25 years, understood at an early stage. “When it is difficult for a customer to come to my store, because of lack of mobility for example, then I have to go to them,” he said. “That’s why I decided 20 years ago to deliver food to homes.” In 2013, Fricke expanded his service once again. He became the first REWE retailer in Germany to provide his customers with the option of picking up their shopping bags ready and packed at the store. “I tapped a new target group with this pick-up service,” Fricke said. “Families who place orders during the day can quickly pick up the goods on their way back home from work.”
Fricke loves to experiment and is open to new ideas, including technical innovations. For this reason, he is one of seven REWE retailers across Germany who serve as experts for sales and digital issues (“TEK sales/marketing/digital”) in their region. In this function, the retailer from central Germany has many roles to play: he is a contact and spokesman for other retailers, a sparring partner for management and a leader for the entire retailer team.
Retailers and management of REWE Group are working together – in accordance with the cooperative principle – to improve the organisation’s performance and to strengthen the market position of the retailers, who are the cooperative’s members. Guided by the idea of “getting better results together than alone”, management and retailers are working in close cooperation to develop solutions to many issues for the future at REWE supermarkets, including in the area of digitalisation. A key element of this collaboration is knowledge transfer.
Regional and national central departments are firmly integrating retailers into working groups and projects. This is because the retailers’ experience and understanding of competition improve the decision-making process. The retailers are important drivers of innovation and continually create competitive advantages for those in the cooperative. “When a new project or working group is started, we always ask how we can include our retailers’ knowledge in the process,” said Thomas Nonn, a member of the Divisional Management Board of REWE Group who is responsible, among other things, for the integration of retailers. With “Themen-Experten-Kaufleute (TEK)” (Themes Experts Retailers) the company always succeeds in integrating those retailers who have expressed a willingness to help and have special expertise in a particular area. Integrating this approach into the organisation and using it productively are two special benefits we have achieved.”
Co-working, co-decision-making, co-responsibility
The interplay of entrepreneurship and central services at REWE is a decisive competitive advantage and serves as the basis for future success. The relationship between retailers and management was redefined in 2009 in the Munich Declaration, firmly enshrined and then systematically refined and established within the organisation.
Co-working, co-decision-making, co-responsibility. These key concepts characterise the resulting culture that is also reflected in the organisational structure of REWE. Within this culture, individual retailers are an active part of the management structure of REWE. As managing directors for independent retail, they assume additional responsibility in their regions as employed managers on part-time basis. Also, the more than 1,800 retailers can join a range of committees, serve as experts and work or take decisions in projects, like Michael Fricke and six other REWE retailers who serve as experts for TEK sales/marketing/digital.
The pick-up service that Fricke launched as a pioneer in Homberg and that is now being rolled out nationally in Germany was such a project. Another current project to which retailers are contributing their expertise is the regional delivery service – something that retailer Fricke and many others have been offering for years. It is now being multiplied in a 2.0 Version and optimised with the expertise that REWE digital developed in recent years, while setting up the central delivery service. The regional version works like this: Customers register on the “Mein Markt” (my store) page of the participating store, order products in its individual online shop and define a time slot during which the products are to be delivered. “The retailer is free to set up the service as he or she wants: The retailer defines the minimum order size, sets the delivery fee and decides when the delivery will be made,” says Sophie Kamp, who supports the delivery service project at REWE Markt GmbH. Assuming, of course, that the retailer actually wants to provide this service to customers. The retailer may not see a need for a delivery and/or pick-up service in the area that his or her store serves. If so, the retailer will leave things as they are.
Michael Fricke believes that he can further strengthen his market position in Homberg by providing his customers with alternatives to shopping in the store. “The challenge is to motivate my target group to change their habits and increasingly take advantage of the benefits that digitalisation offers.” For him, the close cooperation with REWE digital has made many jobs easier: As soon as a customer has sent an online order, the order can be viewed on mobile data-collection devices in the store – information that includes product photos and is listed according to the sequence in which an employee can select the items from shelves while walking through the store. It’s nothing like the past, when customers used to phone or send a fax and employees would wander around the store with a handwritten note, collecting the items.
How can digitalisation help to make in-store shopping easier for customers? Here too, REWE management and retailers are developing and testing solutions in close cooperation. One example is Cologne-Rodenkirchen, in the REWE CENTER operated by Ingo Istas. Since autumn 2018, his customers have been able to enjoy “SMART SHOPPING”, and save time. At the store’s entrance, customers sign up for this shopping option with their PAYBACK card and receive a portable scanner – an easy-to-use device with a large display. They use the scanner, or their own smartphone, to identify all items that they want to purchase, load the products into their shopping cart and pay their bill at one of four express check-out lanes.
“This is an attractive option, particularly for customers with full shopping carts,” Istas says. “Anybody who tries out ‘SMART SHOPPING’ will use it again.” The initial goal is to teach shoppers to use the technology, overcome their reservations and show them the advantages of self-scanning. Nobody needs to be afraid of making mistakes. Istas has learned that many customers can be easily persuaded to give self-scanning a try if someone talks to them about it. However, employees must be trained to conduct such conversations. All staff should be so well-versed in the technology that they can give customers competent support.
What is the future of SMART SHOPPING? Could it have a future in some selected REWE stores? Or even be a long-term solution for all stores? Further tests will show. “Occasionally, everyday use throws up challenges that no one had previously foreseen,” Istas says. “This is why a continuous dialogue with headquarters is so important. It is the only way to turn self-scanning into an easy and highly-appreciated service for customers.” This is what the cooperative idea is all about: getting better results together than alone.