In the intense struggle for the customers' favour, Carrefour Belgium has presented a new service - featuring personal shoppers, delivery within 90 minutes and an app that can be expanded into a market place.
Expansion to Brussels
The new service is called ShipTo and lets customers choose a personal shopper, who has to gather the order in the store and suggest alternatives if there are cheaper products due to special offers or if the chosen products aren't available. The service costs five euros, which goes to the personal shopper - not to Carrefour. The chain says it hopes to improve the life of people who don't want to or can't come to the store, both because they have better things to do or because they physically can't come to the store.
Once the order is completed, it is brought home in less than 1.5 hours to an address within four kilometres of the participating store. The programme is launched in seaside resort Knokke-Heist, but soon it will be expanded into Brussels and (if results are positive) to the rest of Belgium as well. According to the current planning, the service should be available in eighteen stores by the end of the year.
Moreover, ShipTo should become a real marketplace, with "non-competitive" stores joining in if they are in the same short radius around the delivery address. RetailDetail's founder Jorg Snoeck points out that the move is logical, as he quoted Rodney Fitch as saying "Only one chain can have the lowest prices, all the others will have to distinguish themselves in another way - through experience and service". He points to Dutch Spar stores, who already make visits to especially elderly people to collect clothes that need washing and/or ironing.
Everyone needs to join in
In other branches too, companies are looking for the holy grail of services: DIY chains like Swedish Ikea or Belgian Hubo invest in platforms that not only sell products, but also deliver handymen who can install these. Even webshops now feel obliged to not just deliver products like fridges or washing machines, but install them as well and take the old one back - think of Coolblue. Brands join in as well: Unilever invests in Helpling, a marketplace for cleaners (no points for guessing which products they use) and its competitor Henkel has launched washing service Dobbi, promising you will never have to wash, iron or fold clothes ever again.
And that's just a start, Snoeck thinks: the next step is already taken in the United States and means customers don't have to decide what product to use any more: smart cookbooks first check in your fridge what you need for the recipe you want and then order what's not present any more, and with one click you simply order everything at your usual supplier (like Peapod or Amazon).
The latter even takes it one step further and sometimes delivers a second bag along with the products you ordered. In this second back are products of which the retailing giant knows with almost absolute certainty that you will want them as well - and in the rare cases they are wrong, returning these products is of course free...