Interview with Adriano De Zordi - CEO Bennet
Changes in the business model brought about by the pandemic: which are temporary and which will remain?
Since the beginning of the spread of Covid-19, Bennet has taken action with internal prevention and protection measures towards its staff and customers, in full compliance with the information issued by the Government, the Ministry of Health and in coordination with local authorities.
All store employeeswere strongly urged to comply with the hygiene rules outlined as fundamental in the public information, such as frequent hand washing with sanitising products and the use of masks. The whole Bennet team, especially those who worked in the office, worked in smart-working mode. In addition, a separate insurance cover has been taken out in the event of illness due to Covid-19.
The reorganisation of points of sale, another important point during the past year, involved greater effort and intense commitment due to the constant changes in regulations issued by governmental and local institutions, not to mention the finding of safety equipment, which in the first months of the health crisis was rather difficult to find.
The Lombardy-based company continues to give its all, every day, with the aim of meeting the needs dictated by this period of emergency, while maintaining the constant need to protect the health and safety of its team and its customers. For this reason, all points of sale in the territory are periodically aligned and informed about the new provisions.
The Lombardy-based company has always paid great attention to its customers. Bennet manned the top of mind, central and consumer areas during the lockdown months and afterwards.
Throughout 2020 Bennet has not changed its strategic and communication lines, on the contrary the acceleration of the past year has given the company the opportunity to further strengthen some services. Bennet has therefore not wanted to interrupt any planned campaign but has alternated them with new ones that have the aim of pampering its customers and making them feel protected.
Even before the COVID-19 emergency, Bennett was already working towards the near future. In the emergency phase, a new normality was managed, which involved access to the hypermarket and shopping centre as a controlled space, through mandatory hygiene measures and controlled entrances.
The way of communicating will change: e-commerce, smart-working, video calls, will become the best practices, less hard selling and more caring focused, there will be no going back.
At what point is the digital transformation, how 'phygital' is the shopping experience really, how is the physical/digital integration progressing? Your company is focusing a lot on click & collect, how is it going?
In 2020, faced with the advance of the pandemic, Bennet pushed the accelerator on the strengthening of digital activities and in particular of eCommerce, which, in the strategic vision of the Lombardy company is considered an essential service to respond to customer needs with immediacy, and in an efficient and effective way.
E-commerce must respond to three guiding principles: convenience, speed and quality of service. Bennet has therefore designed the whole system to ensure the best possible shopping experience. It is, after all, the main strategic asset, which led, in October 2020, to the launch of the new e-commerce platform together with SAP software and the Sopra Isteria consulting company with the aim of accommodating many more customers and serving them better, thanks to considerable scalability and a series of innovative features. More specifically, investments dedicated to the front end aim to better welcome customers by improving the experience in the purchase and navigation phase. At the same time, Bennet is investing in the back end in order to process more orders and thus give as many customers as possible the opportunity to shop. These projects are scheduled to close in 2021.
In parallel, investments are planned in processes, equipment and human resources. Bennet wants to devote more attention not only to the needs of new customers, but also to technological and digital innovation at 360 degrees, starting from a multi-channel communication and continuing with cutting-edge solutions such as Bennet Drive, which now has 45 active pick-up points through the click&collect - drive formula.
Bennet Drive is the fast shopping service activated by the Como-based group to allow customers to select products online, using any device 24 hours a day, and then pick them up without getting out of the car.
In addition to Bennetdrive, since 2019 BennetHome has entered the test phase in Pavia and Lodi, an innovative way of doing 'easy', convenient and fast shopping: it allows you to choose from over 10,000 products and receive them directly at home. The use of BennetHome is very simple: just click on bennet.com from any device 24 hours a day, choose the products to buy and wait at home for the shopping in the indicated time slot. Users' purchases are selected and stored in compliance with hygiene and cold chain regulations. All the products are loaded on the BennetHome van that, thanks to the cold and freezer rooms, will be delivered in the best conditions.
Many other areas in Lombardy and Piedmont are covered by the partnership with everli by Supermercato24.
Is it true that the pandemic has intensified consumer focus on natural and sustainability? Are they really willing to spend more on natural/sustainable products?
With a statement of optimism before the end of the year Bennet presented its first Sustainability Report. The guidelines are dictated by a concept that is also the company vision: “Sustainability is not a nice idea, but a path of concrete actions”. Being concrete is a key value for Bennet, applied continuously in business decisions and at the origin of the significant acceleration in terms of solidarity recorded in 2020. The Sustainability Report identifies three pillars of Bennet’s sustainable growth: environment, people, products, which also represent the three areas in which the company, in its more than 55 years of history, has shown its commitment and on which it intends to continue to act.
In the consumer's choices there is a great attention to the products. This pillar becomes more solid each year. In 2019, in fact, the number of Bennet products certified as sustainable rose to 195 (+11% compared to 2018), thanks to a strategy that aims to increase the number of products certified with brands such as FSC (+7%), Ecolabel (household cleaning products), UTZ (cocoa) and Bio. This address has made the Bennet offer wider and wider thanks to whole ranges of certified products, organic products and an innovative line of natural cosmetics. In 2019, products under the Bennet Bio brand, the company's chosen signature for products from suppliers who adopt natural agronomic growing techniques, grew by 9%.
An important contribution to consumer education also comes from labelling on packaging and display material (posters, leaflets) for branded products, supply chain products and products made in internal production workshops. Simple and straightforward objective: not only to comply with current regulations, but also to provide correct information to the customer.
Bennet attaches great importance to the origin of its products, which meet high quality and compliance requirements.
With the aim of spreading the culture of sustainability throughout the supply chain, in 2019 the foundations were laid for the Filiera Valore project, which aims to guarantee quality and control at all stages of the production cycle. Quality that means respecting the rhythms of nature, animal welfare, responsible use of antibiotics, protection of health and the environment, followed from the origins to the counters at the point of sale to guarantee continuous safety.
Bennet also considers animal welfare to be of paramount importance to the extent that 100% of eggs in shell now come from free-range hens, as do 100% of eggs and egg products used as raw materials in shops.
The company also pays attention to products that come from the area where the hypermarkets are located. Local production is in fact considered a key factor in the company's mission. For Bennet, choosing these products means contributing to the promotion of the regional agricultural and food heritage, rediscovering the local identity and allowing a conscious use of the area while reducing the environmental impact.
F&B logistics is under pressure but is also a bit of a 'star' in these changes. How is it evolving?
Logistics is a fundamental element, a central topic that Bennet keeps constantly monitored and under careful observation.
Compared to other countries, organised distribution is more fragmented in Italy. How does this affect the dynamics of the sector?
The possibility of market concentration could provide us with a number of opportunities.