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Carrefour, one of the top five global modern grocery retailers in value according to Euromonitor International has always sought to be at the forefront of innovation: Since opening its first hypermarket store in 1963 Carrefour has been one of the pioneers of the format in Europe, and since taking office in 2012, Georges Plassat, the current CEO, has reinforced the role of laboratory of new concepts and technologies by the chain.
In this context, the hypermarket Carrefour EuraLille in Lille, France (7,800 sq m) trialed a new shopping experience: Promo C-Où, an abbreviation for “where are the promotions/discounts?”. Promo-C-Où was initially launched in 2015 as a mobile application for iPhones that indicates the customer’s location in the store and where in the store to find the best bargains and promotional offers. Then, for those who do not use an iPhone, Carrefour made available special trolleys with dedicated touch screens with the same app in 2016.
The geo-tracking function in the Promo C-Où system can accurately track 10cm (compared to two to three meters by traditional Wi-Fi). This is attributed to the Visible Light Communication technology from Philips Lighting that uses the new LED lighting of the store to spot and communicate with each trolley. In 2016, Philips Lighting claimed that Carrefour EuraLille was the only hypermarket in the world with such technology. Customers could immediately locate 200-300 current promotional offers in the store, prioritise them, make a shopping list and thus save time and money. Promo C-Où would then boost sales per client as customers take advantage of a larger number of promotional offers and drive traffic past isles that users would not otherwise have visited.
However, on the last day of 2016, Carrefour ended Promo C-Où . The company withdrew the smart trollies from the store. For what reason? First, only consumers with the Carrefour loyalty card could have access to the trolleys with tablets (of which there were only 30) and they still needed to deposit an ID (such as a driver’s license, passport, etc.) as collateral before they are allowed to use them.
Additionally, the digital map of the store seemed to be too schematic and not precise and interactive enough. Consumers tended to stare at their tablets on the grip of their trolley, which limited their viewing time of the actual shelves and thus led to a less impulse purchases.
Lastly, the outlet in which they trialed the technology was perhaps not optimal. The clientele at Carrefour EuraLille are urban and rather young – 50% are between 25 and 40 according to the trade publication LSA– and likely early adopters. However, only 4,000 downloaded the Promo C-Où application on their iPhones a few months after its launch, according to the trade publication Lineaires. Footfall is high in urban hypermarkets such as Carrefour EuraLille, which hosts 13 million customers per year, but on the other hand the average spend per trolley/basket is much lower in general than in the hypermarkets of the outskirts of French towns where the more suitable target of families that closely track promotions and discounts.
This will not be the first time the introduction of a digital technology that fails once in the hands of consumers in a brick and mortar outlet. Despite the negative experience at EuraLille, Carrefour is not discouraged. On the contrary, the French chain is testing with better success new concept stores in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Brazil and is also acquiring a growing number of start-ups to accompany its development toward a successful phygital store of tomorrow.
*Phygital – contraction of physical and digital, i.e. the strategy of store-based retailers aimed at making consumers come back to their brick and mortar outlets owing to mobile applications, internet and in-store digital technologies.
Source: Olivier Dauvers, www.olivierdauvers.fr