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Stime for Intermarché: Transforming a digital platform to help shoppers buy essentials during lockdown

About Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires

Founded in 1969, Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires brings together 150,000 employees around nine food, home appliance, and mobility brands, 3,956 stores in Europe including food retailer Intermarché (1,832 points of sale and 1,437 Intermarché drive throughs in France) and three subsidiaries (agrofood, real estate, and logistics) The IT organization is La Stime.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: France

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About Skale-5

Cloud and DevOps expert, Skale-5 is specialized in two essential domains: migration (Move2Cloud) and 24/7 operation services. Possessing technical skills gained from years of experience, Skale-5 allows Google Cloud customers to use wholly Google Cloud services.

Intermarché kept shoppers supplied during COVID-19 lockdown by building an easily scalable web and mobile frontend infrastructure on Google Cloud to handle 10 to 12 times its usual traffic volumes.

Google Cloud results

  • Handles daily, weekly, and unprecedented peaks in traffic so customers can keep shopping, without experiencing downtime issues
  • Helps to improve the online retail experience by accelerating development of new features through continuous integration/continuous delivery
  • Reduces the operational burden on IT by making it easy to scale infrastructure hosted on Google Cloud

Online customers able to shop despite 10-12X traffic

While some shoppers like to stick to their budgets, others simply love a good bargain. In a competitive market, one of key ways Intermarché stands out among other food retailers is by keeping its prices low. By offering affordable products, it's committed to making sure they are available to as many people as possible across its 1,832 French points of sale. The 3,000 Mousquetaires entrepreneurs are committed and they fight to provide high-quality products at a fair price while respecting the supply chain and undertaking concrete action to protect the environment. But Intermarché also wants to be close to its customers and to take part in local life. That's why it has grown its retail model to reflect the evolving habits of its shoppers, who in addition to low prices, increasingly value flexibility in the way they shop.

"By browsing the Intermarché website or swiping through its mobile application, customers can use its Drive service rather than calling by the store and browsing the shelves in person," says Stephane Maurer, who is Manager for Digital Customer Interfaces at Stime. That's the name of the Directorate of Information Systems for Les Mousquetaires, which is the grouping of independent companies that Intermarché is part of. "With Drive, they can choose to have their fruit, vegetables, and other food and household items delivered to them at home, or click-and-collect their shopping in their local pickup point, choosing from 1,437 participating locations," he explains.

In 2016, Intermarché decided to modernize its digital offering, bringing together the existing separate Drive and Intermarché platforms into a single Intermarché site and a single mobile application. Its goal was to make the existing on-premises infrastructure more dynamic and flexible, as digital retail was changing so fast. Another key goal was resilience: with further digital growth on the cards, it wanted to be sure its platforms could cope. More shoppers were turning to their computers on a Thursday night to place orders for collection before the weekend, leading to increased traffic on the website and app.

"Within a food retail context that changes frequently, we want to choose technologies that help us to stay ahead. Our goal was for Intermarché's ecommerce platform to become a real asset, like its fishing fleet or its logistics operation, and to provide a great customer experience."

Stephane Maurer, Manager for Digital Customer Interfaces, Stime - Directorate of Information Systems, Groupement Les Mousquetaires

Of course, what it couldn't have foreseen was the confinement measures that were announced in March 2020 and the unprecedented numbers of orders that Intermarché's platforms experienced as a result. But having made the decision to move to the cloud, Intermarché was ready to face the challenge of a sudden surge in online customers, with the support of Google Cloud.

"Within a food retail context that changes frequently, we want to choose technologies that help us to stay ahead," says Stephane. "Our goal was for Intermarché's ecommerce platform to become a real asset, like its fishing fleet or its logistics operation, and to provide a great customer experience."

Choosing the cloud to fulfill both IT and business requirements

In October 2019, Stime moved to its new offices in Châtillon, in the southwest of Paris. Not only did it adopt a new open plan layout to support a more open working environment, it soon began working in a completely new way with other teams in the company. To make this happen, Les Mousquetaires put into place a so-called Digital Factory team that consisted of 120 people, with 40% coming from business teams and 60% from IT. The team took a new approach to the re-platforming, prioritizing the practical needs from the technical side, as well as the eventual user experience required by the business side.

The team also brought on board cloud implementation partner Skale-5, who recommended Google Cloud as the best way to achieve its goals. "At the time, we had an on-premises infrastructure, and the thinking was that it was better to do everything in-house," says Stephane. "But Skale-5 showed us that the best way to achieve the continuous integration we wanted for quick development, as well as the increased resilience and capacity, was to move to Google Cloud."

"Using Google Kubernetes Engine, we've implemented a continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline, which means we can push code into production with a click of a button. It simplifies things for our developers, and I'd estimate that it speeds up the development of new features by 15% to 20% overall."

Stephane Maurer, Manager for Digital Customer Interfaces, Stime - Directorate of Information Systems, Groupement Les Mousquetaires

Speeding up new feature development with CI/CD

With support from Skale-5, Stime rebuilt the front end of the website and mobile app using Docker containers and implemented Google Kubernetes Engine as its orchestration solution. In addition, it also hosts an internal order fulfillment application on Google Cloud. Then, it has a middle layer of microservices that connect its front end with the services that are still hosted on on-premises servers, such as its loyalty scheme and its customer registry. The company has also adopted BigQuery for its data warehouse and analytics, Google Cloud’s operations suite to handle monitoring and logging, Cloud Storage, Datastore, and a host of other solutions that help to keep the platform running so developers can focus on code.

"Using Google Kubernetes Engine, we've implemented a continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline, which means we can push code into production with a click of a button," says Stephane. "It simplifies things for our developers, and I'd estimate that it speeds up the development of new features by 15% to 20% overall."

While the back end of the platform and numerous services remain on-premises for now, the Stime team are planning to gradually move everything onto Google Cloud. "The vision is for the digital platforms to be an asset for the company like any other asset," says Stephane. "The situation we experienced during the pandemic restrictions convinced us that we're moving in the right direction."

Handling unprecedented traffic as shoppers rushed online

During COVID-19, the importance of Intermarché's digital offer came to the fore when in March 2020, France implemented strict confinement measures that required citizens to complete a form justifying any trips outside the home. Shopping went from being an everyday chore to a potential hazard, and as a result, food retailers became an essential service. Many shoppers turned to online shopping as a way to stay home and stay safe.

"On 12th March, the President made a statement, and although that wasn't the beginning of the confinement, everything changed for us," Stephane recalls. "While our usual peaks in the mornings or on Thursday evenings are two- to three-times higher, we suddenly had traffic that was 10- to 12-times higher than usual."

While many other online food retail platforms crashed, Intermarché's customers were able to access and order using the website and mobile app. "Of course, we had some disruption, but at no point was the website completely down," says Stephane. "We realized that we were providing a really important service, and the team was really motivated by seeing that the platform we'd built could handle the increased volumes."

After the initial surge in traffic, the pressure on the digital ordering applications didn't disappear, however. "As we release slots daily for the next seven days, during the confinement, people would wait with their online baskets ready to click and order on the stroke of midnight," says Stephane. "As a result, we were receiving 3,000 orders within ten minutes on the platform."

The next challenge was order fulfillment, as Drive orders are passed directly to an individual store rather than to a centralized stock. Stores put all their efforts into fulfilling orders and doubled their usual capacity from 30,000 to 60,000 daily to keep up with demand. "What limited our capacity was order fulfillment. The infrastructure hosted on Google Cloud was a non-issue," says Stephane. "We had to click once to authorize an increase in capacity, and that was it, in terms of operational burden."

"Since moving to Google Cloud, we've achieved our goal of improving time to market for new features and resilience in the face of expected and unexpected peaks in traffic. I believe it will help us to sustain the growth we're expecting over the coming years."

Stephane Maurer, Manager for Digital Customer Interfaces, Stime - Directorate of Information Systems, Groupement Les Mousquetaires

Turning new clients into loyal shoppers with an improved UX

With the end of the confinement, the question for Intermarché is how to make sure it retains the new shoppers it gained during the initial peak of the pandemic. "At a certain point, we were registering 12 times the usual number of clients," says Stephane. "To encourage those new clients to become loyal customers, the key is offering a great customer experience end-to-end, from the ease of using the application to the delivery and so on. With Google Cloud, it's much easier to be flexible and adapt the system when we need to."

Overall, Stephane is happy with the gains made since making the switch and the performance of the platform during the confinement. "Since moving to Google Cloud, we've achieved our goal of improving time to market for new features and resilience in the face of expected and unexpected peaks in traffic," he says. "I believe it will help us to sustain the growth we're expecting over the coming years."

To do that, Stephane wants to move more of the Intermarché infrastructure onto Google Cloud and further deepen his team's understanding of the tools available to them. "We want to continue growing the ecommerce side of the business, so we have a significant road map for the migration and modernization of the back end to Google Cloud," he says. "Our goal for 2021 is to reach €1 billion of revenue for Drive, so we need to be ready."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires

Founded in 1969, Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires brings together 150,000 employees around nine food, home appliance, and mobility brands, 3,956 stores in Europe including food retailer Intermarché (1,832 points of sale and 1,437 Intermarché drive throughs in France) and three subsidiaries (agrofood, real estate, and logistics) The IT organization is La Stime.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: France

About Skale-5

Cloud and DevOps expert, Skale-5 is specialized in two essential domains: migration (Move2Cloud) and 24/7 operation services. Possessing technical skills gained from years of experience, Skale-5 allows Google Cloud customers to use wholly Google Cloud services.