Convenience store takes stocking requests through Facebook bot 


Grocery store chain tailors stores to communities by adding requested products to its shelves

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our online intelligence tool. To find out more click here.

In Finland, corner store chain, Alepa, has created a chatbot that enables customers to request grocery items to be stocked by their closest shop within 2 days.

Developed by Helsinki-based agencies TBWA (Creative) and SOK (Digital media), the Block Wish campaign aims to bring a greater selection of products that better reflect the needs and tastes of individual neighborhoods and communities to Alepa convenience stores.

Alepa is owned by HOK-Elanto, a Finnish retailing co-operative that has 1,600 outlets across the Nordic country, 240 of which are Alepa stores.

Alepa has described the campaign as a hyper-local integrated digital initiative. Customers are encouraged to speak to the Alepa chatbot, which is built into Facebook Messenger app, to search for items that they want to be added to their local Alepa store.

On this platform, shoppers can search for whatever items they want, which are then cross-referenced with the entire product range of HOK-Elanto’s network. The platform then locates the requested products or offers close substitutes.

After customers confirm their selection, the products are then delivered to the nearest Alepa store, with the aim of fulfilling this request in 48 hours. These are added to the shelves, labelled as ‘Korttelitoive’ (Block Wish) requested items, so other customers will know the items are both new additions and have been specifically requested by people in their local community.

Digital screens outside some Alepa stores displayed the new products it had inside, referencing the name of the person who requested it through Block Wish.

Results / According to the brand, so far, the Block Wish campaign has received 150,000 product wishes, 70% of which were fulfilled within 48 hours. The idea was embraced by 90 different neighborhoods. The brand also said that nine out of 10 customers said the Block Wish function was beneficial to them, with Alepa reporting that brand perception increased 12 points for ‘Alepa stores selection fitting their needs’ and 9 points for ‘the Alepa brand actively improving its services’. Finally, 22% of customers have made a Block Wish, while 56% are planning to soon.

Contagious Insight 

Price and convenience / Big convenience store chains like Alepa typically stay profitable by charging a premium price for goods that consumers could find at larger stores for much cheaper. For example, the BBC reported in November 2018 that supermarkets in the UK increase prices in their smaller branches, with one chain charging £10 more for a trolley of groceries in a smaller shop than in its superstore. In a Tesco Superstore, continues the article, you’ll be charged 9p ($0.12) for a banana, while the brand’s smaller stores, Tesco Express, will charge you 25p ($0.32). This extra cost is typically attributed to the convenience that the local stores offer consumers, but when a person can’t find the items they want on a regular basis, the convenience store stops being all that ‘convenient’.

Alepa’s Block Wish campaign is a solution to this problem, as through Facebook Messenger, consumers can ensure that the products they want are available at their most convenient store. They may take 48 hours to arrive, but data from the 2015 Deloitte Consumer Review on Made-to-order: The rise of mass personalisation, discovered that 48% of people are willing to wait longer for a personalised product or service. Equally the same report details that 20% of consumers are willing to pay a 20% premium for personalised products or services. Therefore, through Block Wish, Alepa has positioned itself both as a co-operative that cares about the communities it services and as a high-value service that consumers might be more willing to pay a premium for.

Working Cooperatively / Scandinavian countries such as Finland are famous for implementing co-operative business models, these being organisations that are jointly run by its members, who equally share in the profits or benefits: Finland is considered the most co-operative country in the world, with 84% of people being subscribed to at least one, while 56% have joined at least two, according to the Coop Exchange. Alepa’s parent company is HOK-Elanto, which claims to be the largest private employer in the country, with 40,700 employees across 1,841 outlets, including grocery stores, coffee shops, gas stations and hotels. According to the 2018 financial statement of the S Group, business is booming, with retail sales growing 2.7% and sales volumes increasing 2.2% in 2018.

The success of co-operatives is down to the people who support them; co-operative shoppers believe that if they choose to spend their money there, the business will give back to their local community. Block Wish brings greater value and choice to neighbourhoods, but also highlights the unique effectiveness of a co-operative network, with the brand being able to use HOK-Elanto’s network of businesses to deliver on the tight 48-hour deadline. But this model isn’t exclusive to Scandinavia. In the Q3 2019 issue of Contagious magazine, we featured a brand spotlight on the UK-based Co-operative (Co-Op), shining a light on how the cooperative model is improving local communities, delivering value to consumers and turning a profit that its members receive as dividends. Magazine subscribers can read our Co-Op brand spotlight here.

The Finnish line / The Alepa Block Wish campaign also accommodates a Finnish quirk – the stereotypical Finn, as Burger King’s recent Silent Drive-thru activation identified, is introverted and hates small talk. While this hasn’t been proven, the modest and far-flung five and half million-strong population has a reputation for being quiet and introverted, and the Alepa Block Wish system is built with this kind of customer in mind. Alepa customers don’t have to interact with another human to have their request fulfilled, as it all takes place within an automated app extension of Facebook Messenger.

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our online intelligence tool. To find out more click here.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit to learn more.