NRF 2018: Via Varejo’s digital journey

A year and a half ago, Via Varejo did not have a website. Instead an entirely separate business represented the brands Via Varejo sold online. But over the last 18 months, the retailer, with 967 stores and 50,000 employees, has merged the two companies to become, what chief digital officer, Flavio Dias, describes as “truly omnichannel”.

Now the retailer sees 30% of its sales come from online and mobile, while click & collect – which reduces logistics costs by 92% – represents a quarter of all online orders.

It could be argued the 60-year-old Brazilian retailer has done more to become digital in 18 months than many retailers have done in a lifetime.

Speaking at NRF 2018, Dias said: “We’ve been investing in technology like never before.”

Through a partnership with Accenture, the retailer plans to personalise its services by investing in big data systems to enable a single view of its customer, while the deployment of IBM’s Watson technology uses artificial intelligence to help customers choose the right mobile device.

While the business has invested heavily in digital, Via Varejo is not expecting the physical store to disappear.

“We do not think stores will die, they will continue to have a crucial role in the way forward – they make our online stronger and vice versa, but their role is going to change.”

Dias described a new store which opened last week in Sao Paulo which featured interactive screens and a VR corner. One interactive screen was designed to look like a shelf, which provided product information, while another giant screen digitally replicated fridges so customers could see the various models in their true size. The store also opened with electronic price tags and featured online customer reviews.