Introducing graze labs
graze labs is a new team at graze focusing on technology, services and data within Unilever
In 2008, graze.com started making and sending healthy snacks direct to the consumer through the UK post. At the time, there were very few platforms to help us with such a novel idea, so we built our own: from factory machines and systems, to a subscription website and data warehouse. Technology and data have always been important in driving our success, and were vital in more recent launches into retail and Europe.
We were acquired by Unilever in 2019, who immediately recognised the wider potential of our capabilities. They’ve backed us to set up graze labs, taking our technology and expertise into new areas of the organisation. We’re aiming to bring different solutions and a different way of thinking to the organisation, initially focusing on data, e-commerce and fulfilment. Here are some of our experiences in these areas that we’re now building upon.
How a business manages and uses its data is becoming increasingly important, particularly when you have hundreds of millions of consumer data points. At graze, our DTC business success was partly due to solving some complex data problems, for example subscription cohort behaviour, acquisition attribution and postage cost optimisation.
You can read more about some of the data challenges in retail and CPG in this previous blog post.
Graze moved into retail after several years of operating online direct to consumer. Even though we’ve moved ‘from clicks to bricks’, maintaining that relationship with our end consumers is still important to us and we believe it’s a great way to build a brand.
Brand building with DTC requires a very different approach to traditional transactional e-commerce. Amazon is a model for the latter. Its business is primarily about getting customers to the product they want and selling it to them as quickly as possible. But brand building is not purely transactional. It’s about creating a great experience for your consumers from the first time they encounter you, through to trying your product, and then over the longer term as you develop and grow.
Graze’s original DTC experience achieved this with a completely custom website and subscription platform, allowing a rapid test-and-learn of our products and offers, with complete control. We complemented this with a Magento 2 e-commerce platform in 2015. This gave us a balance between the commodity online shopping functionality (browse, search, checkout etc.), and a level of customisation to integrate our subscription experience.
As technology has improved and we’ve learnt more about our market, the level of customisation and testing we require in these core experiences has reduced. Early in 2019, we made the decision to migrate from Magento to the Shopify e-commerce service. You can read more about this transition in another blog post. Shopify now provides us with the majority of what our newer experiences need with much lower maintenance overhead.
However, subscription solutions available at the moment are either fairly basic (e.g. subscribe and save) or relatively expensive dedicated platforms. As we expand into Europe, we’re looking at how to achieve the powerful and successful functionality of our original custom site alongside the ease and scalability of the Shopify platform.
Snacking is a competitive business, so to win in DTC, we require the most efficient fulfilment process possible. Standard warehouse processes and systems are typically designed to pick sizeable orders from large pick faces. With these orders, the overhead of the picking lists, paperwork and delivery administration is relatively low, and those systems are adequate.
However, at times graze has been handling nearly 500,000 consumer orders per week, from a range of more than 100 SKUs. Standard WMS systems would need to be highly customised in order to handle this demand. Instead, we developed an optimised pick-and-pack process allowing a shipment of four products to be picked in under 30 seconds, with full traceability and dynamic printing of marketing content.
These processes and systems make the economics of e-commerce much more attractive, and have supported our recent our launches into Ireland and the Netherlands. We are excited to keep exploring where else we may able to apply these capabilities.