Rewe is the first German food retailer to send weekly promotional flyers via social media platform WhatsApp. The measure is an essential step on the way to digitalising customer communication. The retailer had announced that it would completely stop printing and distributing leaflets from 1 July 2023. It explains this primarily with the effects on environment, climate, and resources. The changeover is expected to save more than 73,000 tonnes of paper, 70,000 tonnes of CO2, 1.1 million tonnes of water and 380 million kWh of energy.
Since end of August, customers across Germany have been able to get leaflets of their preferred Rewe store sent to their smartphone. Rewe distributes its promotions every Sunday via WhatsApp. The company chose the platform part of the Facebook owner Meta group as it enjoys great popularity across all target groups in Germany and is characterised by high usage rates. The company entrusted official Meta business partner 360dialog with the technical implementation.
Before its nationwide launch, Rewe had already tested the service. According to the retailer, the digital leaflet via WhatsApp met with great interest among customers. This is said to be confirmed by high registration rates for the service, as well as dwell times with the virtual ad flyer. The company has not disclosed any data on this.
Easy entry into controversial territory
Customers can register for the service quickly and easily. First, they must register with WhatsApp; most of them will already have done so. Then all they need to do is scan the QR code on the website rewe.de/whatsapp with their mobile phone. A chat opens in which the customer is greeted and asked for their postcode. After entering the code, the customer selects the preferred Rewe outlet from the list of nearby stores. They then immediately receive the current leaflet and can activate weekly delivery. If they no longer want to receive it anymore, they simply enter ‘Stop’ in the chat.
It can be assumed that Rewe reaches a larger number of customers via the popular platform who want to do without the printed version of the offer leaflet. It is debatable whether the same reach and advertising impact can be achieved via the different digital communication channels as with the physical leaflet. So far, Rewe is alone in German retail with its announced complete renunciation.
Lebensmittel Zeitung interviewed the Cologne-based company’s competitors. They assessed the step as courageous or even highly risky. When asked about possible sales losses, the retailers answered with estimates between 10 and 20 per cent. Those who temporarily dropped out of leaflet distribution for cost reasons returned to the tried and tested very shortly, writes the industry’s weekly. Of course, this does not mean digital austerity. Rewe’s competitors are also increasingly relying on digital channels, but they do not want to completely abandon printed leaflets.
It remains to be seen how Rewe will continue its digital journey and whether it will consistently implement the announced renunciation by mid next year. Should it fail to do so, this could mean considerable damage to its image. Especially since the company justifies the move with the argument of sustainability. However, beyond simple distribution of flyers in pdf format, social media offer highly efficient opportunities for personalised marketing. Efficiently applied, these could more than compensate for possible losses due to the abandonment of printed leaflets.