S Group is Finland’s largest grocery store chain, and Alepa, its crown jewel, prides itself in being the official corner store of local neighborhoods. However, Alepa had become unresponsive to local needs—the service and selection had stayed the same for decades, and customer feedback was going unheard as shops became more automated.
With customers now expecting seamless, convenient and personalized shopping—in both digital and physical environments—Alepa needed to rediscover its purpose as a customer-focused business serving local communities.
What Accenture did
With the goal of radically transforming the product assortment of each store to reflect the specific lifestyles and tastes of its local customers, the grocery retailer engaged Accenture to develop an innovative digital solution.
In only three months, working together with S Group, we launched the world’s first hyper-local mobile initiative for grocery retail. Block Wish, a chatbot, allows customers to request products for an Alepa store of their choice by using the Facebook Messenger app on their mobile phones.
We integrated the chatbot to all S Group SKU-level product data and shop locations. Once the final solution was launched, we continued to monitor the performance of the chatbot solution and service.
The new service is quick and easy to use. Customers “wish” any product from the bot, which searches S Group databases and returns the best matching products to the chat, almost instantly. Customers choose from the list of suggested products and send their Block Wish to either the closest Alepa store based on their location or another named Alepa store.
The logistics and product line changes are made automatically, and we continue to work with S Group to handle the increase in demand for products via Block Wish with improved back-office processes and technology.
To understand what works, we informed and refined each stage of the chatbot development process (from concept through prototype to final solution) with interviews and feedback from staff and customers. Our approach helps each local store find the right assortment—tailored to the needs of the community—with limited space.
In the past, the retailer ordered stock based on previous sales and promotions. Now customers can pick what they want, and local stores stock it. In the most active neighborhoods, up to 25 percent of Alepa’s assortment is customized by customer Block Wishes. The chatbot is now a key driver for the way Alepa builds its stock selection. That means employees can now focus on providing a fast and smooth service.
The innovation is also boosting sales, revitalizing the brand and helping Alepa rediscover its purpose as a customer-focused business. Customers are empowered to make sure their favorite items are in stock, and now have a feedback and social listening channel to communicate with each store. Alepa has a much better understanding of its customers and what they want—now and into the future.
In a time of retail revolution, Alepa is evolving into a network of local shops with individual character and unique selections that are delighting customers through choice and convenience.
Delighting customers through choice and convenience
The chatbot became an instant hit. After introducing Alepa Block Wish, the selection in each store started to change rapidly.
Alepa received 150,000 product wishes in the first year, and 70 percent of the wishes were fulfilled within 48 hours.
Alepa Block Wish has been embraced and adopted in more than 90 neighborhoods—nearly three-quarters of Alepa stores—and is used by a fifth of Alepa’s customers.
Of the chatbot users, approximately 90 percent say that the chatbot is beneficial.