Today French retailer Carrefour has opened its first Belgian stand-alone pick-up point in Waterloo, near the iconic Lion. RetailDetail was invited to check how such a stand-alone point works, and differs from one next to a supermarket.
Advantages of stand-alone
In November last year, Carrefour opened its first Belgian 'Drive' pick-up point, promising the customer would not need to leave his car and that he would be on his way again in five minutes. Since then, the number of Drives (as Carrefour calls these points) has grown to eight.
This Drive is the first not to be connected to a supermarket, but instead it has its own storage rooms which have been especially designed to make order picking faster. The six employees boast that they can work more than twice as fast as their colleagues that have to do their work in a normal supermarket: due to the smaller surface and better technology the preparing of an order has been cut down from over forty to just seventeen minutes.
'From online order to trunk in 90 minutes'
All in all, this Drive promises to deliver the goods to the trunk of your car in only 90 minutes, claiming to be "the fastest pick-up point in Europe", says e-commerce director Arnaud Lesne. A scanner on the employee's finger ensures that no picking mistakes are being made, while a small display on the arm shows the fastest route to storage and immediately alerts the arrival of a customer.
Lesne believes in the new service Carrefour is offering, even in Belgium: "It is strange that Belgium, one of the world leaders in internet connectivity, has started experiments with pick-up points so late, but now they have accepted the innovation, we see a separate culture emerging here." Much like the cliché, Belgians have high demands of their food products: "While in France only thirty percent of online turnover includes fresh food products, in Belgium it is nearly fifty percent!"
Belgians also require more flexibility when ordering online: quite often they want to purchase extra products or cancel a few items. "We have integrated this flexibility in our logistic process", says Lesne: "the customer does not pay when he confirms his online order, but only just before he leaves the pick-up point and when he is fully satisfied with all the items he bought."
Competing with Wink
This first stand-alone Drive is a direct answer to Louis Delhaize Group's concept Wink, which was the first to start stand-alone pick-up points in Belgium. The group currently has two such points and want to raise the number to ten in three years' time. Another competitor, Colruyt, also started with such pick-up points, creating stand-alone Collect & Gos in Mechelen, Zaventem, Haasrode and... Waterloo.
Carrefour is ambitious as well, but does not want to reveal to much of its strategy. "We are just looking for now, but if an opportunity shows up we will not hesitate to grab it... But so far there are no real plans to open a tenth Drive, and even then there is still quite some time between the planning and the opening." But that Drives will be an essential part of the market in Belgium as well, is quite clear in everybody's mind at Carrefour...