Now isn't the time for experimentation

Ivan Kalyuzhny
Head of Brand and Marketing Communications at Perekrestok online supermarket

— Ivan, what are your responsibilities?
— I’m responsible for the brand and communications of the online supermarket Perekrestok.ru. Everything related to the formation of the image of the company in the minds of the mass audience. It seems logical to me such a structure - when the Marketing Communications and PR are in the same hands.

When did the online supermarket appear?
– It was launched in 2017, when delivery was just beginning to develop. Initially, it was an experiment based on a hybrid store that combines a regular supermarket and a warehouse for collecting online orders. We immediately set the bar - they should comply with European delivery models: our products are delivered by refrigerated trucks, frozen products are delivered in boxes with dry ice, and different categories of products are not mixed.
— And how did the company grow further? And when did you join?
— In 2018 the project continued to grow, the first advertising campaign was launched. Since the end of 2018 it was headed by a new leader, who began to strengthen the team, and already in 2019 I joined it. My main task is to build a strong online supermarket brand and convey the message to the audience that Perekrestok.ru isn’t a delivery from the nearest store. We should become #1 in grocery delivery.

How does Perekrestok online differ from its competitors? Like “Yandex.Lavka” or “Samokat”.
– We are all in the grocery delivery business. But they all have different business models that cater to different buying missions. These services specialize in "additional purchases". And we provide households with large purchase formats: fruits, vegetables, milk, water, diapers, household chemicals - and we can deliver everything in large packages in large volumes. You can't take orders from our customers on a scooter and in a dispatch box.
It seems to me that this is what a hypermarket of the 21st century should be like: it brings the order itself, the prices are lower than in physical retail, and the quality of the goods is the highest. This model is new for Russia in the mass segment, so for me now is a very interesting time for the formation of a completely new behavior for people.
— Due to the pandemic, your delivery isn’t on the same day. Why doesn't it work?
 Everything is quite simple. Any system is calculated along a demand-driven. Before the epidemic the average number of requests per day for food delivery in Moscow was about 15,000. And now it’s about 150 thousand. None of the systems can be scaled 10 times in one month. We have to go through the entire transformation in combat. Therefore, it’s now so important to convey to customers what all the changes that we introduce are connected with, and that as soon as the situation is over, everything will return to the usual service.

How much has the demand increased?
— Traffic to the site has increased by 67%. Colleagues from the performance department joke that our President and Mayor are better than they are able to bring high-quality traffic to the site, because they make any announcement, and that's all - we have six thousand people at the same time go to buy food. During the peak period for our online supermarket (the weekend of March 14-15), the average number of orders placed per day increased by more than 90% compared to the previous week, and exceeded 13,000 orders per day. The average check for the last weekend of March also rose significantly to almost 6,000 rubles. This is 50% higher than the average check we had in December. The number of goods in one order is 1.5-2 times higher than the average.

What are you doing with advertising activities now?
— We’re very happy that we work in retail, because there will always be demand for groceries - now we have incredible traffic. We quickly adjusted our advertising activities - everyone worked as a team.

Now it’s very important to communicate with customers through the media, CRM, website and all communication channels. For example, in the SMS before ordering, we added a link to information about our sanitary measures.

Every day the company develops, adapts to new conditions and customer requests. We have an individual form for pensioners and people with disabilities so that they can place an order on special conditions, and we will prioritize their orders. Every day our operations bring out new vehicles and couriers, employees work almost seven days a week to meet demand. Therefore, it’s so important to convey all this to customers.

What aren’t you currently doing in terms of advertising?
— Obviously, at a time like this, retailers shouldn’t spend money on special projects. For example, we didn’t launch anything before April 1st, because now it’s unnecessary communication. And in general, we try not to make communications that don’t give an increase in turnover, customers.
— How many people are on your team?
— The Brand and Marketing Communications Department consists of four people. Everyone is responsible for their own direction: media, brand and creation of marketing communications, digital communications (bloggers, SMM, special projects, etc.). Of course, we have agencies that help us with all this.

What does your team do if you stop all ads?
— There are many tasks with media advertising - it needs to be removed. It’s not so easy to agree with the advertising platform to transfer our activities to the next month.

Now our main task is to explain the whole situation to customers. Therefore, we focus on PR and direct communication with our customers.

What advice would you give to creative media agencies that have lost budgets and projects?
— On Facebook I’m offered daily various options for cooperation in all areas, with anti-crisis programs. But for some reason, these “applicants” don’t understand that retail doesn’t need any kind of advertising now - people don’t understand the specifics of the business. And this is the biggest mistake.

For many agencies, this is a time of strength testing: who will survive and who will not. Advertisers will now understand who needs memes and who needs sales. And for all creative agencies that do special projects, but do not convert into sales, the fate is sealed. For the agency business, now is the time to cleanse. Only useful agencies will remain or the most adapted ones :-)

Recently, my friends and I had a discussion: which of your friends will you go to when the zombie apocalypse comes. You will go to someone who will definitely figure out how to survive, who knows how to handle weapons. It's the same story with agencies. The zombie apocalypse demands: either you are going to, or it is obvious that the market will throw you out.

And how can agencies "muster the strength"?
— You need to prove that you can convey the meaning of what you are doing and show the result. Because now emotions are falling off, a result is needed. Alas, there is no time to "immerse" the agency in the specifics of the business, so at a critical time we work with those who will accurately complete the task. Now isn't the time for experimentation.

Are you dumping agencies, taking advantage of the economic situation?
— We aren’t. But if I were a Head of Brand and Marketing Communications of a company from another field that suffered, then I think that one could ask the agencies for concessions, but would give something in return - for example, an advance payment. I’m sure that now it’s possible to agree, taking into account that it’ll be beneficial for both parties. Now it’s important to make sure that the business partners you enjoy working with don’t stop working. We all lose money one way or another. It's just a matter of who gets to the end.

Give advice for the CEO: in what case should the marketing team be reduced internally?
— First you need to understand the role of marketing in the company. If the marketing department considers itself an "entertainment department," then perhaps now is the time to reshape it. Moreover, now there will be many good specialists on the market who will not be free of their own free will.
What advice would you give to marketing directors? What should you pay special attention to in order to increase your expertise?
— All directors must constantly learn something new. I think that in the new reality, everyone needs to increase their expertise in performance. In my opinion, it comes first. I'll take a closer look at it myself.

What is your message to those who are reading you now?
—  First of all, stay at home. Secondly, everything ends, soon everything will return to its usual rhythm. In the meantime, be more condescending to those who remain in office in order to provide us all with the usual services.

Photo: Unsplash.com