Boon lays new foundation for innovation

Retail Retail Transport & Logistiek Transport & Logistiek

Boon Food Group’s desire to install self-scan checkouts was a significant reason for them to implement the Omnichannel Retail Suite. The food retailer now has a platform for even more innovations, such as an app consumers can use to scan items themselves and in future, order their groceries online. “Investing in this platform was necessary to improve the customer experience.”

The supermarket has to be somewhere people enjoy coming to, with a large fresh foods department where they can taste and smell the products and a range of products tailored

to local needs, with local products from local suppliers

if required. “No one needs to leave home to do grocery shopping. To get consumers to come into the store, we are building traditional stores which offer experiences and inspiration,” explains Willem Boon, Boon Food Group's Commercial Director. “Obviously people have less time for this during the week, which is why we have created a short route for them past the ready-to-cook meals and the fast-track checkout. But at the weekend, we want people to move away from their trolleys and experience what the store has to offer.”

This change has not made life easy for Boon Food Group. Stores are increasingly being built with operational effectiveness as their main focus. “Our approach is different, but we believe that by doing so, we are offering a different in-store experience,” says Boon.

Boon’s Pitstop

This in-store experience is the most tangible in the 40 stores with the Boon's Markt and MCD retail formats. They can be divided into two variants: the larger full-service variant and the slightly smaller, village shop variant. Boon Food Group also operates its Buurtsuper (corner shop) and Vakantiesuper (campsite shop) format in 13 stores. “In 2020, we started Boon’s Pitstop as a spin-off from Boon’s Markt for places with considerable traffic flow. More and more people pop in on their way home to pick up a meal they can prepare quickly, so that they don’t have to cook.”

There are currently three branches of Boon's Pitstop: in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Leiden. These three stores are one of the reasons for transferring to Centric’s Omnichannel Retail Suite. People who want to shop quickly on their way home don’t want to have to join a queue at a traditional checkout. They prefer to scan their own shopping so that they can be out again quickly and catch the metro home. Boon Food Group’s old checkout system could not support self-scan checkouts, however. “We had an outdated checkout system that was no longer compatible with today’s formats. To improve the customer experience, we needed to move to a new application and new hardware,” explains Marcel van Gurp, Boon Food Group's ICT Manager.

No disruptions

Although the old checkout system had originally come from Centric, it didn’t mean that the decision to go for ORS was an obvious one. “We looked into other applications on the market, but we were also aware that the reliability and performance of the old checkout system had always been excellent. Centric’s ORS was a new application which had already proved itself in practice. And what’s more: Centric already knew our people and our business processes, so we could scale up quickly,” explains Boon.

The entire process from purchase to completion took a year. ORS was implemented at Boon Food Group’s corporate-owned stores in the last three months of 2019, followed by the stores run by franchisees in the first two months of 2020. “The roll-out went very smoothly, mainly because we had prepared well. All the parties involved had experience with this type of project and knew exactly what to do, so turnaround was short.

Interestingly enough, the stores never had to close at all. The main checkout was replaced before the stores opened. Van Gurp: “Consumers experienced no disruptions from the conversion. The main checkout had been configured and synchronised with the ORS system beforehand. Our employees had already been trained at our head office in Dordrecht. Good supervision, both from a technical and functional point of view, did the rest.”

“I think that the self-scan app will make a much bigger group of consumers happy.”

Willem Boon Commercial Director, Boon Food Group

Self-scan app

The first self-scan checkout was only installed after the implementation and roll-out of the ORS. Boon Food Group wanted to set up a pilot project first to find out what

the impact of the self-scan checkouts would be on the consumers and the stores. “That's why we’ve replaced the old checkouts with new ones. When we had finished doing that in March 2020, we launched a pilot project with self-scan checkouts that same month,” explains Van Gurp. Before doing so, Van Gurp had talked to the specialists at Centric about the right configuration and components for the self-scan checkout. “We thought carefully about the design of the checkout. We obviously made some adjustments to the look & feel on the basis of the early experiences, but after that we quickly started on the roll-out. We also started making better use of the functionality, for example the random checking of baskets. That’s also the value of pilot projects: you can test and improve processes like that.” Van Gurp is currently focusing on another project: a self-scan app that consumers can install on their phones. “We think that this will be the way to go in the future rather than a wall of hand scanners at the store entrance. Everyone does everything on their phones nowadays. And the self-scan app in combination with ORS gives you so many more possibilities, such as direct payments using your phone or ordering online and home deliveries.”

Customer experience

Once the app is up and running, Boon Food Group wants to test all three options at the same time: the traditional checkouts, the self-scan checkouts and the self-scan app. Stores will differ as to which solution they prefer. Boon: “Our stores are often in city neighbourhoods or villages. There are customers who insist on paying at checkout number three because they want to have a chat with Esther. We will have to help customers in these stores to show them that self-scan checkouts can actually be handy. But we also have a store in the centre of Utrecht, where customers run towards the door with an armful of products. They don’t need anything explained to them; they think the self-scan checkouts are fantastic. And customers who do their weekly shop on a Saturday morning may well find that the self-scan app is a godsend. I think that this solution will make a much bigger group happy.”

The question of whether the investment in new technology will pay off is something Boon finds less important. “We're not so much looking at the business case as at the customer experience. People don’t mind spending half or three-quarters of an hour in our store but when they’re ready to pay, they want to do so quickly. That’s when it’s nice to be able to choose an appropriate option for the moment.”

Open system

Boon Food Group can look back at its decision to invest in ORS with satisfaction. The system runs centrally in the Centric data centre so that Van Gurp essentially doesn’t need to touch it. Things were quite different before, when each store had its own server. “All the data is now held centrally, which benefits the quality of the data.”

Besides this, ORS is an open system which is relatively easy to link to such things as a self-scan app or the automatic ordering system for replenishing the store. Van Gurp: “If, in the future, we want to enable consumers to order their shopping and have it delivered via the app, ORS can support this too. Examples include the order picking module which store staff use to attend to online orders. Or the delivery modules with the option of paying on delivery. Using the same system everywhere makes it easier for our staff.”

First line helpdesk

The partnership with Centric is working well. As previously mentioned, the implementation and roll-out of ORS went smoothly. Van Gurp is also satisfied with the support provided subsequently. “Centric takes care of all the support, including the first line helpdesk. That took a bit of getting used to, not least for the stores. They no longer have a fixed point of contact and, instead of contacting someone from Boon, all of a sudden they needed to phone Centric if they encountered problems. These days, the stores are accustomed to contacting the helpdesk. And the helpdesk comes up with good solutions quickly. The number of incidents has reduced considerably. We talk to Centric once every two weeks about how we can improve support even more.”