Corner shop 2.0 - Welcome to the grocery collection station.
Sausages from an online store? Yoghurt from the Internet? There’s still something odd about buying groceries on the Internet. Who does that, even? “Actually an amazing number of people already,” says Rüdiger Weimer. He taps on his large, metallic invention: the “emmasbox” – the automatic, perfectly refrigerated future of the corner store. “And the number of people ordering groceries is growing all the time.” Weimer, General Manager of open ideas GmbH, isn’t alone in his prognosis. Last year, for example, German supermarket chain REWE made a massive investment in its online business with REWE Digital. Soon it will be joined by Amazon Fresh; Germany’s largest mailorder company is planning to enter the fresh groceries business in 2017. So it’s a real future market. And Riedel, part of Glen Dimplex Thermal Solutions, is aiming to help shape that future through its collaboration with open ideas GmbH. Or should that be “cool-laboration”?
Supermarket 2.0 – the groceries business of the future – has been an upward trend for some years now. But to date there’s always been one big problem. “It’s what we call the last mile,” says Rüdiger Weimer, one of the heads of start-up open ideas GmbH. “That’s because delivery from warehouse to customer is what costs supermarket chains the most. The groceries must be painstakingly packed and cooled. And if the delivery van gets stuck in traffic, the consequences are obviously different from when a normal package delivery is held up.” The solution? The emmasbox, a refrigerated collection station for groceries. The name refers to the fact that corner shops are colloquially known as “Auntie Emma” shops in German. One such collection station sits in the middle of the Munich office of open ideas GmbH. Weimer demonstrates how it works. You simply pull out your smartphone, call up the bar code and scan it on the large reader. “Whooosh!” A refrigerated locker opens – hello pizza! Another “whooosh” and a second door springs open – there’s the salad. Fresh and crisp thanks to optimal refrigeration. The basic idea is simple. “The supermarkets are closed by the time some people leave work,” says Weimer. “That’s something I know from my own experience. If you don’t have milk for your muesli in the morning, it’s really frustrating.” In 2012, together with his colleagues Oliver Latka and Michael Reichelt, Weimer came up with the idea of building a collection station for groceries. From the very beginning it was obvious that they would need a partner who could supply plug’n’play, reliable, customisable refrigeration units. Without absolutely reliable cooling, the emmasbox would never have got off the ground. They quickly decided on Riedel.
“The decision was easy,” says Weimer. “Their level of experience in tailor-made commercial refrigeration is pretty much unrivalled.” “Working with a start-up is a unique experience,” adds Key Account Manager at Riedel, Daniel Buchwald. “From very early on, the team at open ideas GmbH had a clear concept about what they wanted from the refrigeration solution for the emmasbox. We gave them compact units that are truly state of the art for every module.”
One particular challenge lay in the fact that the emmasbox requires three levels of refrigeration for different categories of groceries. The different levels have to work as efficiently as possible and allow for remote supervision. The modules also have to be easy to install. So Riedel developed three compact modules that can be flexibly combined depending on the volume of shopping: a freezer module (–20 °C to 0 °C), a normal cooling module (+1 °C to 20 °C) and a roomtemperature module (20 °C). These modules, approved by German testing facility TÜV, each contain two Riedel refrigeration units, ensuring constant temperatures using the natural cooling agent R290. The additional operating module with touch display and code scanner controls the collection process. “If a customer has bought items at various cooling levels, the locker with the lowest temperature opens first,” explains Weimer. “Once that has been emptied, the next cooling level opens. And so on.”
It’s a concept that’s catching on. German supermarket chain Edeka and Austrian giant Interspar already use the modular grocery boxes. “Branch managers are counting on their customers preferring to pick up their own groceries rather than having them delivered,” says Weimer. “Particularly in the evening, people don’t have a lot of flexibility around waiting in for deliveries. You go to take the dog for a walk – and then you remember that the delivery is due. To say nothing of the packaging that has to be thrown away.” Now, if you order from the Interspar online shop, you can select a nearby emmasbox collection station and collect your shopping at any time, day or night, whenever suits. The surcharge is just one euro, compared to EUR 3.90 for home delivery. Plus you don’t waste valuable time standing in the check-out queue. “For families in particular, this is a major benefit, even during opening hours,” says Rüdiger Weimer. “Instead of running around the whole supermarket, you can collect your purchases conveniently, right there in the car park. It takes a load off your mind.” What a fresh idea. And, thanks to Riedel – totally cool.
How the emmasbox works:
You order your shopping online – from the office, at home, or out and about – choosing one of the suggested time slots and a collection station.
The retailer puts the order together, then deposits it freshly packed in the right temperature zone of the emmasbox.
As soon as you complete the purchase, you receive a collection code via email or text message.
You pick up your groceries at whatever time suits you. All you have to do is enter the code on the touch display or scan the barcode using the reader.