METRO’s innovation management is aimed at developing solutions that make daily work and business processes more efficient and sustainable for both our customers and METRO’s operating business. To achieve this objective, Hospitality Digital (formerly HoReCa Digital), METRO-NOM and the Store Operations division at METRO AG have formed a close cooperation.
Supporting the digitalisation efforts of our business customers
Digital technologies have become an essential part of our daily lives consumers use their smartphones anywhere and any time to find shops or food outlets and to book a table at their preferred restaurant. While it is true that digitalisation has made an impact in the hospitality industry, many of our customers continue to lag behind in the digitalisation of their business models. This is the finding of a METRO survey that examined the needs of business owners from 10 countries. The survey found that around one third of respondents find it difficult to gain access to digital solutions, despite more than 80% of them considering these important for their business. METRO has acknowledged the opportunities for growth associated with digitalisation and aspires to be a driving force behind the digital transformation of our customers. Hospitality Digital is, for example, developing solutions that allow hospitality operators to improve their digital presence without too much effort and technical knowledge. These solutions include, for example, an online booking tool and a toolkit for creating a website that runs on METRO servers. METRO customers can take advantage of these online tools free of charge. Websites for more than 100,000 customers from 14 countries have already been created since the end of 2017.
To identify effective and scalable digital solutions, these websites are tested by METRO in close cooperation with hospitality operators. The project METROpolitan Pilot saw more than 500 hospitality operators testing more than 100 restaurant-specific digital solutions in Berlin, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Vienna, including solutions developed by Hospitality Digital and start-up partners. This included an analysis of the user-friendliness and the additional value of the solutions for the customers’ businesses. Our teams and the start-ups then used the findings to further develop and refine the solutions. Once the trial phase is concluded successfully, the solutions can be brought into strategic sales cooperations that will market them to a broader audience.
Hospitality Digital and US company Techstars have teamed up for the METRO Accelerator programme which has been assisting international teams of entrepreneurs in the development of digital solutions for the hospitality industry for around 4 years. The same service has been offered for the retail industry since 2017. Around 50 start-ups have participated in these accelerator programmes so far. METRO’s own investor team LeadX Capital Partners has joined forces with other external investors to provide capital funding for promising start-up companies.
Innovative technologies for a better shopping experience in our stores
Digitalisation is increasingly affecting the shopping behaviour of customers in store-based retail. To achieve an optimised and more efficient shopping process for our consumers, METRO-NOM and the Store Operations division of METRO AG are working on the digitalisation of customer contact points.
Saving time when doing grocery shopping is becoming increasingly important for our customers. This is why the METRO wholesale store in Nuremberg-Buch is trialling an in-store navigation app that can directly guide customers to the product they are looking for and improve the overall navigation within the store.
New digital solutions, such as virtual and augmented reality, offer the potential to actively involve HoReCa customers as early as the planning phase of innovative concepts. In France, for example, the development of the new Compact Store concept allowed METRO to use virtual reality technology to better align the new wholesale stores to the needs of our customers. In financial year 2017/18, the fourth new METRO store was designed and opened with this technology in Carcassonne, France.
Our customers also want to save time at the checkout. One of the MAKRO stores in the Czech Republic already offers a smart checkout solution to its customers. Customers can use the smartphone app to scan the products before placing them into their trolley, which is then weighed at the smart checkout register. The weight is then compared against the information stored in the app. If the data match up with this information, the customer can pay and save some time by not having to place all items on the register belt.
A decision on whether the individual projects will be expanded to additional stores or other METRO countries will be made after thorough testing has been completed.
Transformation to omnichannel wholesale
The digital solution M-Shop is the cornerstone of our omnichannel strategy for wholesale trade. The online shop is an extension to both store-based retail and METRO Wholesale’s delivery business and allows our customers to combine our sales channels in the way that best suits them. The M-Shop features an intuitive product search engine and personalised product recommendations, which together ensure rapid order processing.
Digital solutions also make work easier for our employees, who can more easily retrieve important information about our customers and their shopping behaviour. The sales force app SAM (Sales and More) consolidates information from the various internal customer management systems and ensures that all relevant customer data are available immediately when needed. Artificial intelligence and algorithms are used to analyse the past shopping behaviour of customers and to forecast sales trends, which allows METRO to develop targeted offers that exactly match the needs of our business customers. The delivery then makes use of the driver app from METRO’s transport management. This app offers manifold support to our drivers – from optimised tour planning to scanning of delivery products and paperless order processing.
NX-FOOD: the innovation hub for new food solutions
Pressing issues such as the rapidly growing global population, food wastage or humanity’s expected reaching of the limitations of conventional livestock farming present huge challenges for the entire food industry. METRO founded the NX-FOOD hub in March 2018 to overcome these challenges and develop sustainable food solutions as well as concepts for their implementation in the trade and hospitality industry. More than 300 start-ups have already submitted their application via the platform. Their products are now being given a trial listing for around 3 months in Real as well as German and Austrian METRO stores, which will be continued permanently if successful. METRO Wholesale and Real are the first retailers in Germany to offer products made from insect protein on so-called start-up shelves from NX-FOOD. NX-FOOD also cooperates with the airline Eurowings and Retail inMotion. Products from up to 4 start-ups will be featured in Eurowings’ magazine ‘Wings Bistro’ for a 3-month trial phase that started in August 2018, making them available to more than 2 million passengers.
Knowledge gained from cooperation projects
A continuous dialogue about trends and experiences is a crucial element for hospitality operators who want to ensure a satisfactory transfer of knowledge. This is why METRO cooperates with the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL), the hotel school Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and the Code University of Applied Sciences. These partnerships and the cooperation projects with start-ups allow METRO to integrate existing networks and concentrate knowledge.