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Customer experience innovation helps Coop@home thrive in a down retail climate

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When last we spoke to Ellen Brasse of Swiss grocer Coop, she told us how her team had successfully launched in 2009 an mobile grocery home delivery app for smartphone-wielding consumers who did not have time to get to the store. We profiled that Coop@home success story in an in-depth case study in our book, The Customer Experience Edge: Technology and Techniques for Delivering an Enduring, Profitable and Positive Experience to Your Customers.

Brasse, head of marketing and sales for Coop@home, was expecting the online service to take off. We checked in with her this week to see what has happened developed since the book came out. It turns out, things are going even better than Brasse anticipated, even as the regional retail picture has grown cloudy. Coop@home keeps innovating and making itself more relevant and valuable to its customers.  

Current economic uncertainty in Europe has given way to a tight retail climate. Many consumers are steering clear of discretionary purchases. In Switzerland, the relative strength of the Franc vs. the Euro is driving many consumers to cross into neighboring Germany or France to exercise their buying power to purchase wares, including groceries. As a result, many native retailers are suffering. Not so Coop@home.

“We’re doing well in an environment of challenges,” says Brasse. “Our major online [grocery] competitor LeShop announced in the first quarter this year they had 7% year-on-year loss. Our online business had 14% growth year on year.”

To what does Brasse attribute Coop@home’s success? “We offer something completely beyond just low-price groceries. Our online app makes our relationship with our customer stickier.” And Brasse and her team have gotten quite adept at cross-channel promotions that reinforce the value of both the bricks-and-mortar store and the mobile app.

For example, Coop@home recently set up a promotion at the large Coop store located just above the main commuter train station in Zurich.

Given that all of the shoppers at the store are on foot, Brasse set about lightening their load -- literally. In front window they displayed products that would be too heavy to lug home – wine, large bags of pet food, multi-pack drinks – and invited shoppers to come in and immediately order the products for home delivery by scanning their bar codes. (These same items, incidentally, nudge up the average cost per cart quite a bit.) Customers enthusiastically took part in this experiment in cross-channel pollination, and the store manager was thrilled with the buzz the promotion received.

“It’s a very good location and we took advantage of that. The store manager felt it makes us look attractive,” says Brasse.

Brasse and her team have shown much skill in the way they get inside customers’ heads and understand what will delight and be of service to them. They are equally adept at generating positive publicity and a reputation for hipness.

In another experiment, Coop@home created what it called the Drive In Station, a place where customers can elect to pick up groceries ordered via the app rather than pay the shipping cost to have them delivered at home. “The publicity behind it was more valuable than the actual station,” says Brasse. Customers much prefer to take delivery at home -- even with the shipping costs – but media coverage associated with the Drive In program was positive for the service overall.

Just about everything looks positive to Brasse at the moment. The number of orders coming in through the mobile app have increased from 9% to 12%. “That’s a pretty high jump. People use it when they’re away, when they’re in a hotel, even if they’re in Spain. They can still order and have their groceries delivered when they get back from vacation.”

Discussing why their online shopping results have been negative in recent months LeShop has blamed a fickle customer base. “We should have similar customer bases. But we believe we have more loyalty,” says Brasse. As the latest results from the grocer attest, customers have learned they can trust Coop@home to understand their wants and needs, and in return, it has earned a place in their daily routine.

About the Author:  Reza Soudagar - Senior Director, CRM Solution Marketing, SAP Global Marketing

Reza Soudagar is a co-author of "The Customer Experience Edge" (McGraw-Hill Professional; October , 2011).  He has more than two decades of experience in business consulting, IT strategy, and the development of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. He held senior leadership positions at Accenture and Oracle, serving clients in high-tech and communications industries, and was responsible for a number of products in Oracle's CRM suite. Currently, Reza is an executive in SAP's global marketing unit and focuses on customer experience. Reza has a bachelor's and master's degree in Electrical Engineering from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and completed an executive education program at Harvard Business School.

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