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Uzņēmējiem - 2021 02 26
uzņēmējdarbība | e-komercija | ilgtspēja

Fruits and vegetables are a popular choice in e-shops – the experience of Rimi Latvia

Fruits and vegetables are a popular choice in e-shops – the experience of Rimi Latvia Foto: Rimi Latvia

Launched in late 2019, Rimi Latvia's e-shop has gained the trust of customers and is playing an increasingly important role in the company’s development. Also, the assumption that shop staff would not choose the most beautiful fruits and vegetables for online shoppers has been proven wrong. Currently, customers actually put fruits and vegetables in their e-shop carts more often and in larger quantities than when shopping in person.

Didzis Kirstuks, director of Rimi Latvija e-commerce format, discusses the role of an e-shop in the business growth strategy, customer habits, and how other companies can create a successful online selling platform.

When was the e-shop launched and what prompted to launch it?

As part of implementing the next step in its growth strategy, Rimi opened a convenient and modern online shop in November 2019 with a wide range of products to provide even more options for everyone to choose a shopping solution that fits their daily pace.

Selling groceries over the internet is currently one of the fastest growing types of business. Despite the fact that the Rimi e-shop was launched only recently compared to other market players, we are already one of the best-known brands in this field.

Since the launch, more than 210,000 users across the Baltics have registered with the Rimi e-shop, and sales in Latvia have increased more than tenfold. We have also grown from two shops to six full-fledged, spacious, and well-equipped e-shop centres during the year. According to the Kantar study data, the awareness level of Rimi e-shop in Riga and its surroundings is over 85 percent.

Already in the first year of operation, we created an opportunity to make purchases through the application Rimi Drive, which is currently highly appreciated by our customers. However, one of the most anticipated and requested improvements by customers in 2020 was the ability to add goods to an already completed order. For the convenience of customers, delivery subscriptions are also offered, which is a novelty in the food e-commerce market, and the demand for this service has been growing steadily.

What are your observations on whether and how customer shopping habits are changing – has the launching of the e-shop reduced the number of regular shop customers, or do the majority still prefer to shop in person? Is there perhaps a trend in certain product groups – what goods are bought more in person and what goods are bought more remotely?

Traditionally, globally e-commerce evolved in the non-food retail sector. Concerns about whether the products delivered will be of the best quality - the quality that the buyer would choose has often been a barrier to buying food from e-shops.

However, our experience shows that customers who have had a positive experience with the quality of the delivered products become regular customers of the e-shop. Usually, customers pay special attention to the selection of fruits and vegetables, so we are pleased that in our e-shop the share of these products in purchases is higher than that in purchases in physical stores, which indicates confidence in the quality we deliver.

The demand for e-shop services was influenced to a large extent by the spread of Covid-19. At the time of the first wave of spread of the virus in Latvia, Rimi's e-shop had little experience, having been on the market for less than five months. Studies show that a large proportion of shoppers who have purchased from the e-shop during this period intend to do so in the future.

Shoppers' habits have changed. Virus-related restrictions have changed people's attitude towards online shopping, shoppers have learned how to do it, and they appreciate the convenience of the service. As we deliver quality products, we see that the positive experience of shoppers now and in the future will lead to the e-shop being a place where groceries and everyday goods are increasingly purchased.

We have also found that our customers use the e-shop not only to shop in it, but also to search for goods that they buy in Rimi's physical shops, i.e., they use the e-shop as an assistant to create a shopping list, view goods and messages.

What is the benefit of an e-shop for business?

It is important for businesses to evolve in line with the priorities and changing habits of customers. Especially in today's world, e-commerce is no longer just a small niche with relatively rapid growth. However, it is too small a part to influence the strategic plans of companies. In some European markets, even before Covid-19, the growth of food retailing was mainly due to the growth of e-commerce. During the pandemic, e-commerce development became a top priority for many businesses and grew at an unprecedented pace.

In grocery retailing, e-commerce efficiency and financial sustainability have traditionally been seen as challenges, but it is important to keep up with changing consumer habits and improve efficiency, as there is reason to believe that the importance of e-commerce is here to stay.

Rimi e-shop has also contributed to customer loyalty. Some may look at the goods and offers online but then decide to buy them in person. Some will make large weekly purchases from the e-shop but make other purchases from the physical shop.

What challenges did you face in the early stages of building an e-shop and what are the challenges now? What challenges do you expect to encounter in the future?

It is possible to build a simple e-shop in a day. But building an e-shop for a large company and integrating it with more than 20 different systems, a brand platform, processes, and corporate culture is a whole different story.

Our journey to launching the e-shop was relatively long, but the feedback from customers on the performance achieved has been incredibly positive. The customer feedback is also reflected in the study, as a result of which the Rimi e-shop received the “Latvian E- Commerce Award 2020” as the best online grocery shop. We are also proud of the fact that the Rimi e-shop has a wide assortment of goods, so that our customers have the opportunity to get many and various necessary goods within a single purchase.

Shortly after launching our e-shop, we were hit by the first wave of the pandemic, which led to an unprecedented surge in demand for e-shop services. In a remarkably short period of time, capacity had to be increased quickly, which was a major challenge for the entire team, especially as our quality assurance requirements remained consistently high throughout the merchandise assembly and delivery process.

Currently, the focus is still on increasing the capacity of the e-shop, but at the same time we are also working on increasing productivity and efficiency and the associated investments, because e-commerce food retailing is here to stay.

What opportunities do you see for the future development of the e-shop and e-commerce?

Globally, e-commerce has reached different stages of development in different markets, and this gives us an insight into where our market is likely to be heading for. In the early stages of e-commerce development, shoppers expect to be able to make a secure purchase at a good price and receive the goods easily. Over time, however, the overall experience of the shopper has become more important, i.e., whether the customer feels a personal touch, what additional services are available and how organically this e-shopping experience fits into the shopper's everyday life.

What advice can you give to companies that are still thinking about setting up an e-shop?

Although the growing role of e-commerce is now a global trend, the needs, and goals of each company in this regard can be quite different.

In my view, the most important thing is to look at the company’s long-term plan through this perspective of “the new reality” where so many customers have familiarised themselves with and shopped in e-shops, and many of them plan to do so in the future.

Solutions for any business can range from quite simple to overly complex. The most important thing is to be aware of the major shifts in public attitudes towards e-commerce and how they will potentially affect the relevant business.

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