Gebr Heinemann

The Gebr Heinemann digitalisation drive

“You hear a lot about digital first strategies. Digital is a key element for sure but it is something to put into your strategy. We aim to understand the travellers the way they want to be understood, and to contact them and communicate with them they want to be communicated with.” CEO Max Heinemann put Gebr Heinemann’s focus on digitalisation into context during the annual press conference – it is consumer rather than digital first. He said: “Our biggest competitors are distractions. They are entertaining distractions, call them Netflix, Disney or Spotify. These things are keeping people out of our shops, the digital natives who have a different thirst and hunger to eat or be entertained. This is another set of customers that we need to penetrate much, much greater than we have in the past, because they are coming and it's great that they are there. They will push us towards a more exciting future.” Raoul Spanger broke down the approach to digitalisation into three elements. “One is digital sales. Under Heinemann & Me we have home delivery where appropriate and possible. But we sell only to travellers, which we feel is important. But while it’s a service it is strictly limited, single-digit turnover. “Then there is inflight retail. Here, the triangle between airline, airport and retailer will have a new discussion and we’ll have new chances to sell because it’s all about the same consumer.” Second is digital communications, Spanger noted. “Click & collect pre-order will be an area in which we push. You need the right communication for action, inspiration and convenience.

Heinemann & Me: The loyalty programme that the company plans to leverage in new ways

Third is a focus on digital processes aimed a delivering more efficiency internally and with partners. The company has created HeiCloud (‘Heinemann Cloud’), a web-based communication platform to automate and streamline order processes between Gebr Heinemann and its distribution customers – as well as, in the medium term, with the company’s own retail sites. Spanger said: “It will include everything from assortment, ordering status, pricing, marketing and (in future) sales. It is a communications and information platform, with hopefully all partners onboard this year.” The company’s annual report features more detail, noting that HeiCloud provides up-to-the-minute data and information that was previously sent by email regularly, but with a time gap. It means that distribution customers can call up the listed product range including detailed information on products as well as prices and price changes at any time. “This transparency has become more important than ever for our customers in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis,” said Andrea Waskönig, Senior Project Manager for Digital Commerce. Project Owner and Vice President of Sales Florian Seidel added: “In offering HeiCloud, we are highlighting how Gebr Heinemann is actively shaping the future: we are streamlining processes and automating most of them. Many time-consuming and error-prone steps, such as exchanging information using excel lists sent in emails, will be done away with. What remains is more time for personal contact and support for our customers in addressing more complex issues.” Digital tools also play a part in improved and more efficient supply chain management. The company said it used the crisis to “critically examine structures along goods distribution chains and press ahead with advancements in forecasting, inventory management and warehouse processes”. The result is an increase in efficiency, in product availability and costs, as well more digitalisation of processes.

Advertising the benefits: How Sheremetyevo Duty Free marketed its loyalty programme at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport last year

Smart data will be key for the future, it added. Chief Commercial Officer Dirk Schneider said: “It is not about quantity, but about the use of data. This presents us as a retailer with a huge opportunity to become a more comprehensive and trusted travel companion throughout the customer journey. We are currently pursuing some big opportunities for the excitement of our customers.” The company is moving forward with digital shopper-centric services, such as an enhanced Heinemann & Me Loyalty Programme. Schneider said: “We aim to boost this programme. Members have stable shopping behaviour and commitment to our company, and we aim to give them more value. It’s about having a dialogue with the consumer, before, during and after their travel. Just imagine that we give you a notification while you’re on your trip that you can buy with your return ticket online and get it delivered to your home. All those things are possible now.”


The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 297 | 21 June 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

Share this article: