S-GROUP, Helsinki / S GROUP / 2018


Innovation Eurobest
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Why is this work relevant for Innovation?

Alepa Block Wishes changed the way S Group and Alepa build their Grocery store selection. The Block which and chatbot enabled huge lead in store level customisation and had impact on sales and brand image.

Block Wish -chatbot utilised the Facebook Messenger existing environment with totally new and innovative way to build value for both Alepa and its customers and transformed Alepa's business and selection totally customer centric.


Increasingly personalized online shopping is changing the way we are wired. We have come to expect similar personalized experiences in the physical world as well. Even when buying our daily groceries.

However, at Finnish brick and mortar grocery chain giants the service and selection have stayed the same for decades. Meanwhile switching staff for automatization and self-checkouts, the in-store experience in these stores becomes even more distant and impersonalized. The shoppers’ feedback and ideas go unheard down the empty aisles.

S Group is Finland’s biggest grocery store chain. Their crown jewel – Alepa – takes pride in being the official corner store of local communities. Despite this, all Alepa’s and their selections, have traditionally been almost identical.

To change the status quo, Alepa started a drastic customization of their brick and mortar to reflect the lifestyles and flavor palates of their surrounding communities.

Describe the idea

Although Alepa offer most day-to-day grocery products, the stores are unable to stock every imaginable product in their selection and the absence of single missing product (i.e. the favoured coffee or oat milk brand) can result in losing the customer to other local suppliers.

To tackle this issue, we introduced “Alepa Block Wishes” – a hyperlocal digital initiative and a logistics and production-line turnaround. With the help of a chatbot, customers could request their favorite products to be added on the shelves of their local Alepa straight from their mobile phones Messenger app.

What were the key dates in the development process?

Block Wish is an innovation using existing technologies to enhance the customer satisfaction and sales by mounting automated chatbot to work with logistics and production line systems. The development of the integrations and chatbot started in late 2017. The integrations to product and logistics databases were done in 1st of January to 28th of February. During the same time frame the machine learning, metadata and chatbot interface was build.The chatbot went live at 1st of March.

Describe the innovation/technology

We built Facebook Messenger chatbot with integrations to all S Group SKU level product data and shop locations. Customers could wish any products they imagined from the bot, which then searched matching product from S Group databases using meta data and returned best matching products within milliseconds to the chat.

From these products customers could send their Block Wish to closest Alepa based on their location. If needed they could send the Block Wish to any Alepa based on the name of the neighborhood.

The logistics and product line changes were made automatically. 70% of the wishes were fulfilled within 48 hours.

After introducing Alepa Block Wishes, the selection in each neighborhood started to change rapidly.

Block Wishes became an instant hit.

In a time of retail revolution, the previously prehistoric Alepa store chain managed to evolve into a network of corner stores to hip local shops with unique selections.

Describe the expectations/outcome

- Alepa has received 150 000 product wishes since starting the Block Wish

- 70% of wishes were fulfilled within 48 hours

- Block Wishes has been expanded to over 90 neighborhoods

- In most active neighborhoods up to 25% of Alepa store selection is customised by Block Wishes.

- 9 out of 10 customers say that Block Wishes are beneficial for them

- 22% customers have made block wish and 56% are about to do so in the near future

- Brand measures sky rocketed (Selection fits my needs +12 points; Alepa actively improves it services +9 points)

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