Online supermarkets rely on click-happy customers

Online supermarkets rely on click-happy customers

Because not every consumer has time to be driven around while shopping in the store. In metropolitan areas, the click of a mouse is already enough for lettuce and minced meat from some major suppliers.

Rewe and tengelmann compete for online customers in some cities. Suppliers are eager to take over the high-turnover weekend shopping. But the germans are much more reluctant than their neighbors.

In france, a "drive in" already attracts customers at 2,000 supermarkets, which generated two billion euros in sales in 2012, according to data from planet retail. ""Drive in"" it’s actually incredibly easy: you drive to the supermarket, open the trunk, don’t even have to get out and get the groceries packed into the car," says rewe boss alain caparros.

In london, on the other hand, delivery trucks from the supermarket giants make their rounds. "In the uk, three percent of all grocery sales are already made online," says planet-retail analyst joachim pinhammer. In germany, the online share of food sales was only allowed to be in the per mille range.

Package, delivery service, "drive in" – there are various business models in online grocery retailing. "The demands on logistics are often rough," says trend researcher marco atzberger from the retail institute EHI. To refrigerate goods, special vehicles or boxes were used for delivery services.

"Controlling time windows is also very important: who would prefer to have which goods and when."The companies had to have a long breath, the way to the profit zone was usually long. "The concepts are only just beginning to work."Individual online supermarkets without a strong capital provider have already disappeared from the picture again.

"We don’t have a strong tradition of having groceries delivered to us," explains atzberger. However, experts and retailers alike see the high density of stores as the main reason for the weak internet demand. Added to this are low margins in the fiercely competitive german market. That’s why the hurdles to operating delivery services profitably are so high, says pinhammer.

"This is a very, very difficult business and can produce very, very high losses very quickly," says tengelmann CEO karl-erivan haub. Kaiser’s tengelmann operates its bringmeister delivery service without huge losses thanks to over ten years of experience.

Professional people often have little time to fill their fridges. In a recent study, the gfk found that "daily" shopping is becoming a weekend affair. "There is no such thing as the typical user of the food delivery service," says kaiser’s tengelmann.

The clientele includes mothers, students and elderly customers. "Of course, it’s still a small contribution to sales, but it’s growing steadily in the lower double digits," is how tengelmann’s boss haub describes the impact of online business at his supermarket chain.

"You just have to bite the bullet and take on the hardest part," said the founder and CEO of food.De, karsten schaal, in june at an EHI congress in colon. It may start with a delivery on the fifth floor, but at some point it will reach the second floor because residents become aware of the delivery service.

It is first of all insanely difficult to find a customer. But more than one in three customers will order again in the foreseeable future. "We see the weekend shopping as a target," says the food.De-chef. The 100 euro mark is not a sound barrier. For families with higher incomes, shopping also goes far beyond that.

"For us it was a big surprise how high the average receipt is. It is x times higher than at the checkout in the supermarket," also describes rewe boss caparros. However, there are no plans for a rapid expansion of the rewe delivery service, which is currently offered in six areas. "We are in a learning process. The driver is, in effect, our calling card. He may have to park in the second row or carry the things to the third floor. He also has to be nice, and so on," says caparros. The first thing is to "keep the quality of delivery at the highest level". Otherwise there could be image damage.

Deutsche post DHL also sees potential, as was made clear at the EHI congress. It brings its parcel network into play and in october acquired a majority stake in online retailer allyouneed.Com. In addition, deutsche post DHL offers a holiday evening delivery service in colonia. There are also "drive-ins" at supermarkets. Rewe has pick-up stations for online orders at 13 stores so far. Real tests "drive in" for more than two years at two locations.

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