Creating Stories that Transform the Retail Industry
With his demonstrated skills in strategy, business planning, fundraising and sales management, George Christofis Neto has remained a pragmatic leader in the retail industry. His undying passion for entreprenuership and the desire to take the unchartered path has helped him carve a niche in the industry. A thorough people’s man, George values human relationships and places his employees at the heart of all things at his organization.
As the Co-founder of Mercafacil, the largest platform for managing customer behavior in Brazil, the entreprenuer is at the helm of affairs at the company. In an interview, he speaks on an array of topics – from the conception of Mercafacil to the challenges faced in the industry, from the sucess stories the company has witnessed, to his vision for the retail industry. Excerpts from the interview:
Mercafacil works on the belief that behind every purchase there is a story. Says George, “Information, combined with behaviors, provide the necessary directions for decision making in multiple environments. The digitization of behaviors can provide valuable insights for the correct execution of retail. We believe that above all there is a why. We believe we can create stories that transform retail.”
Conception of Mercafacil
George notes that he was born into a family which was into pharmaceuitcal business. “As a kid I witnessed difficulties faced by the typical small and medium retailers. Unfortunately, our family-run pharmacy had to be shut down since it suffered major losses.” This drove him to ponder over possible business strategies for small and meduim retailers, even at a very young age. “In college, I was into an engineering championship, and during that time, I conceived the first idea around starting Mercafacil. Since then, I partnered with Bruno Leal, an amazing and intelligent person, who started the journey with me. Now, with more than thousands retailers and customers, I believe that if Mercafacil existed 10 years ago, the story of our pharmacy would be different” chuckles George.
As a leading customer behaviour platform in Brazil and with thousands of customers who generates more than R$30b in sales per year, Mercafacil aims at boosting retail sales through the best shopping experience (offline and online). The company is also creating a new category in retail called ‘Consumer Behavior Management’, which helps retailers easily manage their consumer churn, offering the best purchase experience based on their behavior in a ‘phygital’ (physical and digital retail, together). As a complete omni-channel solution that aims at transforming the way retailers sell and relate to their customers, the company provides the best shopping experience, that is highly recommended by its customers too.
CBM – Benefits and Features
With Mercafacil, retailers can identify and learn consumer behavior (GDPR compliant) and use it to market the products to customers in a personalized way, thus, increasing revenue by finding the best cluster to advertise products. It also helps organically adapt marketing strategies based on previous campaigns results and offer a PHYGITAL experience (physical and digital store integrated) and use it to: build an e-commerce integrated with the physical store, create stores into marketplaces, understand behavior through different channels, stores, e-commerce and marketplaces, offer a re-buying experience based on behavior and cross channel and help create personalized campaigns for brands based on behavior using trade marketing budget from industries.
Building a Strong Customer Base
“Customer Management is directly linked to the quantity and quality of your base. With Mercafacil’s promotional intelligence, we help you build a robust database with all the necessary information so that your company can manage customers focused on results.”
Artificial and Behavioural Intelligence
With a robust database in hand, Mercafacil’s platform provides analysis and insights into the behavior of its customers, which help them make the best decisions and also drive sales. Through the solutions offered by the company, new opportunities could be created, that could be aimed at increasing revenue.
Chosing the Right Product
Equipped with the right purchase behavior information and exact analyses that determines consumer behaviour analysis, the retailers stand a chance to be more relevant and assertive in its commercials, communication and relationship strategies with its customers. “This acts as a strong startegy to attract new customers, while retaining the old ones.”
Stressing on the need for an integration between the physical and online stores, George notes that the latest restrictions imposed by the pandemic caused a consumer-shift between channels, consequently impacting their shopping preferences. “According to data from GFK, the growth in sales of retailers that have a physical store and also an online store was up to four times higher than of the pure player (physical or online), which makes it clear that the new shopping journey demands, more than never, integration between the physical and online store.”
“Returning to a normal life, the representativeness in physical store sales will rise again, but it is clear that the consumer journey has turned, into PHYGITAL (physical and digital store integrated) and it demands being ready to offer this shopping experience in different levels of digital maturity. The integration between channels (digital and physical) is able to capture much more value than a single channel, whether it is in the physical store (much sacrificed in the pandemic) but also, pure digital operations failing to generate the same experience as the physical channel.” George observes that the traditional sales strategy of salesperson waiting outside the stores for customer should be avoided as the relationship between a customer and retailer will never be the same again.
Pandemic resulted in many retail chains losing out on their major chunk of sales and thus creating a demand for a new hybrid way of selling. Mercafacil worked closely with many retail giants to revamp their sales during the pandemic.
The company helped Armazem 3, an upscale super market located in Florianopolis, Brazil change the product mix, adding more day-to-day food items, while discontinuing higher cost items purchased only by tourists. It also focused on selling products, now consumed by customers cooking at home fueled by a #HappyHourAtHome campaign on digital marketing channels and direct marketing. Through ‘GrabAndGo’, it targetted senior citizens living in Jurere and nearby neighborhoods, allowing customers to place orders online and get the purchase at the parking lot. Mercafacil’s association with the brand also ensured increased mix of beverages, particularly beers and spirits, to capture consumption that earlier happened inside bars during pre covid times. The program also mooted the retailer’s status to a major participant of the local program to donate food to lower income people. “Focused adverting on direct marketing and digital media, repositioned the stores as the best alternative for high quality products at affordable prices.”
Lealtex, yet another leading bed and bath retailer, saw all stores closed due to the advent of the pandemic. Mercafacil’s demographic and historic sales data helped them design product promotions. “Each salesman called their customers making offers and directing interested customers to stores, processing orders and delivering products. Customers’ acceptance was above expectations.“
Zaffari, yet another leading Brazilian wholesaler/supermarket, who operates out of South Brazil sought help from the company to boost its sales including enhancing of customer analytics and customer behavior management. The retailer that owns two brands and 28 stores, fostered the advantages of customer analytics that became a core capability, as the analytics team participated in key promotional decisions. Various campaigns were drawn for the retailer, aligning with marketing, purchasing and pricing departments. “Direct marketing campaigns received a larger share of the marketing budget, thus, boosting results. Thousands of personalized messages were also sent to customers on a daily basis.Result-oriented campaigns were carefully crafted to reach evaluated and continuously results.”
George reinforces that the tecnology market is super heated, and retailers should take advantage of the moment creating a culture to test startups that solve big problems. “From data to operational problems, there are a lot of startups in the market that can make retail more profitable.”
Establishing a culture based on true values, that put people first and provide flexibility along with empowerment has made Mercafacil one of the best companies to work for in Brazil. “Good partners, predictable manage, risk taking and focus on growth, will make your journey tough, but amazing.”
As a resilient, visionary and a pragmatic leader whose decisions are based on data and rationality, George urges all new entreprenuers to test their hypothesis, in an agile and scientific way. “There is no problem in failure, the problem is to NOT FAIL or stay too long doing the same mistake without learning. Build trust with your team and believe in your progress, failure it’s a choice.” He also suggests that entreprenuers follow uncomfortable situations that would lead them to the desired success.