The most important prerequisite: the right product! And that is the case. METRO MARKETS offers food service-related non-food products from various B2B retailers via its online marketplace, including own-brand products from METRO itself. The platform was initially launched in Germany in 2019. It has quickly established itself there. In 2020, after just 12 months, and in the midst of the pandemic, METRO MARKETS ventured the step into a second European market and expanded into Spain (www.makro.es/marketplace).
Why Spain? The team investigated aspects like market size, competing companies in the sector, logistical processes, linguistic barriers and the internal IT preconditions. The decisive factors were MAKRO Spain’s relatively harmonised IT landscape, the existing digital team, the strongly fragmented online retail market and the large number of HoReCa customers in Spain. ‘It was never about targeting a specific country to expand into,’ says Jon Egiluz, Country Lead METRO MARKETS Spain. ‘Rather, we wanted to create a fundamental model for international growth. We had this in view throughout the process.’
Expansion under extreme conditions
Jon had started at METRO in August 2019 and had travelled to the company’s Düsseldorf offices for several days of onboarding. METRO MARKETS wanted to get off to a flying start outside of Germany. But then came the lockdown. Not only did a new team and a warehouse need to be established rapidly in Spain and customers brought to the Spanish platform – suddenly, all of this had to be done remotely via laptop from the home office. ‘Most of our colleagues were not used to working from home,’ says Cristina Garcia, Head of Digital MAKRO Spain. ‘And we weren’t yet a well-practised team that could simply continue its collaborative work digitally. We had to create new structures in every sense, coalesce as a team and learn to work with an international mindset.’ And to make matters worse, the customers’ operations also practically ground to a halt. Having to open and close repeatedly was a huge and burdensome workplace challenge. But METRO MARKETS pulled it off, opening its digital doors in March 2021.
The online marketplace by METRO MARKETS is designed to cover all needs of professional customers from a one-stop shop: hospitality professionals can source everything they need through a single platform. Retailers specialising in the hospitality sector use a digital interface to list and manage their products themselves. They only pay a seller’s fee once their customer has made a purchase. The result of this direct competition between vendors is the largest possible variety of products at attractive prices.
Blueprint for countries to come
Spain was just the beginning. The experience gained there will help METRO MARKETS to quickly open up new markets in the future. The Spanish model can now serve as a blueprint for the company’s continued internationalisation – for the further development of the platform, the testing of the entire process for new markets and its optimal adaptation for other countries. ‘Unified European standards and regulations have facilitated this – but every country will also bring with it new requirements,’ Cristina says.
A complementary conception of online and offline
Since the platform went online in Spain, it has exceeded all sales expectations. There are now over 40,000 articles on the platform and new suppliers are being added daily. One reason for this success is that, on the Spanish market up to now, there have only been small online marketplaces aimed at meeting the needs of HoReCa customers. Together, MAKRO Spain and METRO MARKETS know the target group extremely well and support users in establishing an additional professional pillar in the online world. ‘Initially, our customers were surprised, because they associated METRO with products and stores locally,’ says Jon. ‘Their trust in the brand really helped to win them over to a digital business model as well. The 2 worlds, online and offline, will mutually support each other in the future. In the end, it’s really about offering our customers a comfortable, convenient service and, as a result, making the cake bigger for everyone at METRO.’