Inside Supermarket Giant, Jerónimo Martins’ Store of the Future Experiment

Jerónimo Martins, the world’s seventh-largest discount grocery group, needed to explore how new technologies might transform the shopping experience for tomorrow’s consumers. Working with Truewind, an elite OutSystems partner, and using the OutSystems low-code platform, the supermarket giant built a store-of-the-future laboratory at Nova School of Business & Economics in Portugal. Called ‘Pingo Doce & Go Nova,’ this live experiment continues today, with two-weekly updates that enable Jerónimo Martins to test and continually refine their future-focused consumer experience.

 

7-person scrum team

7-person scrum team

42-weeks to go-live

42-weeks to go-live

8 legacy systems integrated

8 legacy systems integrated

NFC, computer vision and IoT innovation

NFC, computer vision and IoT innovation

Rui Tomás
“Customer-focused innovation needs to be super-agile. With OutSystems, we were able to efficiently integrate numerous systems and iterate at pace, while ensuring we maintained a brilliant digital experience for consumers.”Rui Tomás, IT Global Innovation Director, Jerónimo Martins

What Does the Future Hold for Supermarket Shopping?

Challenge - With more than 4,100 supermarket stores across Poland, Portugal, and Colombia, Jerónimo Martins (“JM”) is the world’s fiftieth-largest food retailer. The group has revenues of over 18 billion Euros and more than 115,000 employees.

In the competitive supermarket field, the customer is king, as André Ribeiro de Faria, Chief Marketing Officer at JM, explains. “Every day, we start from zero. Customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted, because unlike changing your bank or utility provider, there’s no friction or inconvenience when switching to a different supermarket.”

While this market reality means that supermarkets need an unrelenting focus on giving customers the convenience, choice, and quality that they want, at JM, it also means having an eye to the future.

“Technology is evolving so fast, and we wanted the freedom to experiment and explore what is possible. Ultimately, we want to design retail experiences for the future,” explained André. Jerónimo Martins needed a laboratory as a safe way to experiment without disrupting the core business. But it required the participation of consumers, as testing their reaction and preferences to different customer experiences lay at the heart of this study.

A university was the ideal place to set-up ’Pingo Doce & Go Nova,’ and JM selected Nova School of Business & Economics in Portugal, for several reasons:

  • It gave them access to a large cohort of generation Z consumers
  • The university has a strong technology focus across its curriculum
  • It is close to JM’s Lisbon headquarters.

Creating a Laboratory Supermarket of the Future

Solution - Jerónimo Martins wanted this to be a long-term study. Rui Tomás, JM’s IT Global Innovation Director, takes up the story. “Our goal for the laboratory store is to create long-term retail success, so we can keep iterating and experimenting. The store needs continued footfall, so we can continue to test our hypotheses with sufficient customers.”

This multi-faceted experiment would include:

  • Testing multiple technologies including computer vision, NFC (near field communication), AI, and mobile apps for consumers and store staff.
  • Examining consumers’ reaction to new experiences, products, and technologies.
  • Exploring process improvements and innovations that could improve efficiency and improve customer experience.

The Vision

The project was customer-focused from the start and had the following vision:

To provide a convenient purchase in less than 1-minute and support 24x7 operation

The rationale for this vision was to enable convenient shopping for time-starved students and faculty staff, who often have just minutes between one lecture ending and the next starting. So, minimizing shopping time and avoiding check-out queues were essential aspects of the experience design.

Also, this residential university setting was the ideal place to test new self-service retail cabinets, with plenty of demand for out-of-hours convenience shopping.

From a systems perspective, JM took a pragmatic approach—systems that were not customer-facing should, if possible, stay the same. So, logistics, supply chain, finance, and HR systems should not require changes.

Integration was a significant concern, with eight of more legacy systems to interconnect. Moreover, integration of 3rd party hardware, including NFC, IoT devices, and digital cameras, would need to be fast to build and adjust. The experimental nature of the laboratory meant there could be a continual churn of different devices added to the landscape at short notice.

Having used OutSystems for two previous business solutions, JM knew that the OutSystems low-code development platform would help them achieve the required agility for integration, as well as continuous iterative development of the consumer-facing mobile app.

Truewind
Channel Partner

Truewind is a well-established global solutions provider and one of the top 5 OutSystems Partner.

Learn more about Truewind

From Experiment to Long-Term Success

Results - Working with Truewind, an OutSystems Elite Partner, Jerónimo Martins built a tight and dedicated project team. Commenting on the approach, André said, “It was important for our team members to have a clean-slate mindset, rather than having people so ingrained in our established ways of working. Four of the five people were from our management trainee program and under 30 years old.”

Truewind allocated a seven-person scrum team, including:

  • 3 Developers
  • 1 Frontend developer
  • 1 Engagement manager
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1 Delivery manager

The initial solution was built in around twenty weeks, in two-week sprints. There were several dependencies to 3rd party systems, which meant overall it took 42 weeks for the store to go live.

The following video gives an overview of the consumer app, the in-store experience, and the 24/7 self-service cabinets.

Inside Supermarket Giant, Jerónimo Martins’ Store of the Future Experiment

The solution involved four applications:

  • The consumer app
  • An app for retail staff
  • The production app
  • A Back-office app

The solution required integration to eight legacy business systems, including SAP, ePOS, and a loyalty system.

Capabilities of the overall solution include:

  • Customer registration with SMS confirmation code
  • Store entry via QR code – similar to an airport security gate
  • An in-app landing page for promotions and store gifts
  • Shopping – add to basket with tap-and-go on NFC tags, or barcode scan (for users with smartphones lacking active NFC)
  • Payment – with a variety of payment methods, including credit cards
  • Store exit via QR code
  • Go 24/7 – the ability to buy products outside of the store from a computer vision enabled secure display cabinet.

Computer vision is an essential aspect of this futuristic store, with dozens of cameras in the ceiling and on shelves. The combination of computer vision and AI can help automate replenishment, act as a back-up for NFC and label scanning, aid security, and potentially completely avoid check-out queues. Moreover, computer vision has the potential to make shopping even easier by eliminating the need for NFC or label scanning.

How Low-Code Helped JM’s Experiment

Low-code helped Jerónimo Martins’ experimentation from multiple perspectives—faster development, built-in DevOps for automated deployment, pre-built UI templates and patterns that make it easier to deliver pixel-perfect user experiences, and more. Working in a test and learn scenario inevitably involves rework. With low-code changes could be made in minutes or hours, rather than weeks or months.

Commenting on the experience, Rui said, “OutSystems and low-code helped us keep the development team small, which improved communication and focus. And, visual development helped developers and product owners collaborate more quickly and effectively.”

Being able to rapidly integrate numerous systems in a way that was equally fast to change was a crucial role for the low-code platform, as Rui explained, “With OutSystems we were able to integrate eight legacy systems quickly, and if needed we could easily make changes as external systems or connected devices change. As a laboratory, these rapid changes are all part of the experiment.”

“We found that the OutSystems platform helped us balance between legacy versus new development. We created a separate but integrated customer database for this project using OutSystems. That approach gave us much more freedom and agility compared to integrating directly to the core loyalty platform,” explained Rui.

During the development project Truewind developers created disposable mock-ups of several legacy systems. These enabled integrations to be built and tested in a laboratory setting before the legacy systems became available. This helped keep the project on track, as otherwise integration and all dependencies would have been delayed. The high speed of development on OutSystems meant that these mock-ups could be thrown away without remorse once the real systems came online.

The experiment continues with two-week sprints helping Jerónimo Martins continually refine the user experience based on feedback and data gained from hundreds of store visits every day.

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