Paradoxes in retail: e-commerce vs bricks & big data vs mass retail

At SAS Belux Executive Dinner keynote speaker was Denis Knoops, CEO of Delhaize Belgium and Luxemburg. In my last blog post I discussed the first paradox in retail: sustainability vs sustainability.

Guest blogger: Ivy Vanderheyden, Marketing Director SAS Belux

Today I want to have a look at the other two paradoxes he mentioned: e-commerce vs bricks on the one hand, and big data vs mass retail on the other.

“For the majority of our clients it’s an and/and-story. They want full flexibility in doing their shopping”

E-commerce vs bricks

The shopping behavior of clients is changing rapidly. More and more customers are using their smartphone to do their shopping or are inspired by info on their mobile. E-commerce in food retail is becoming more and more important. But how can you combine the bricks and clicks? Is e-commerce taking over the physical shops?

Denis stated that “it is very important to mention that we are customer-centric in organizing our business. For the majority of our clients it’s an and/and-story. They want full flexibility in doing their shopping: for big volumes they go to supermarkets and AD’s, Proxy and Shop&Go are all about flexibility and convenience, and E-commerce is used for all online buying (collect and home delivery). This mix of shopping behavior will stay for the coming years.”

“Do we focus on this data or do we continue with the mass retail as we did for ages?”

Big data vs mass retail

Nowadays big data seems to be the magic word. Everybody talks about it, most say that they’re ‘doing something with it’, but everyone has their own definition.

Anyhow, retailers are sitting on a huge pile of data. And at the same time they are confronted with this paradox: do we focus on this data or do we continue with the mass retail as we did for ages?

A first example of the power of big data: turning a paper mass marketing tool into an omni-channel and more relevant marketing tool.

Before, Delhaize used door-to-door (D2D) to announce our best promos. The newsletter was for inspiration and presented 3 promos for all customers. In other words, promos were communicated through 1 channel, without personalization and only at home.

Today, they still send the paper D2D to our customers’ home, but strengthen its impact by personalizing the weekly newsletter they receive by email. They display the 3 most relevant promos for each individual customer, predicted based on previous scanning behavior.

Moreover, Delhaize reminds their customers about the promos relevant to them in the store. The moment they start shopping, the promos - personalized to fit their needs - are displayed on the self-scan.

Every communication starts with a personal communication management plan. Delhaize defines and analyzes how a customer likes to receive their communication. “The better it fits their needs, the more a customer will appreciate the fact that we “understand” their needs and behavior,” says Denis.

A strong example of what big data can do: the Delhaize ‘Direct Mailings’:

  • Personalized coupons: for each customer, Delhaize select the most relevant coupons from a pool of coupons. This is based on customers’ individual scanning data that are analyzed and processed to predict which coupons are most relevant. This means the coupons customers receive, are not based on supplier objectives but on their own behaviour. This way coupons are 100% relevant and a true reward for these customers' loyalty. Statistically, more than 500 billion combinations are possible. We send out 1 million different coupon books every month.
  • Segmented inspiration leaflets inspire customers based on their preferences, around themes that truly interest them, and in line with the DNA of Delhaize (bio, wine, sustainability, private brand, etc.).


To conclude, Denis used the Ying-Yang symbol to make his final point:
“I don’t have the answer, I see the paradoxes and it is a challenge… for everybody, no matter what industry you’re in. Time will tell how and at which speed retail will change. But one thing is certain: retail will change in the coming years!”