AB InBev’s Modelorama is becoming an omnichannel powerhouse
Modelorama, a brand born and bred in Mexico and part of AB InBev’s portfolio, might not be so familiar to beer lovers outside Mexico. However, in the last few years, it has risen not only as an interesting business model, but also as a successful retail operation for the world’s leading brewer. This success occurred somewhat apart from the ecommerce space, and now the global company aims to bridge the gap between physical and digital and produce a very ambitious omnichannel project.
The Modelorama entrepreneurs
In the Mexican market, Modelorama is synonymous with beer. Its business model is simple: enabling people to operate franchisees under the umbrella of a well-known and AB InBev-owned brand. These people, called “empresarios” (entrepreneurs) by the company, own the store and their partnership with AB InBev gives them everything they need to operate, including the technology.
To date, there are around 10,000 Modeloramas in Mexico. This footprint, while already impressive, had plenty of room to expand further by fully leveraging technology in the day-to-day operations of the franchisees. Daniel Zárate, Direct to Consumer Technology Director at AB InBev, was confident that an omnichannel approach would help the operation grow and adapt much faster to both AB InBev’s and the franchisees’ needs.
Designing an omnichannel springboard
The core of the Modelorama project was centered around building a point of sale (POS) that would be able to manage promotions, product launches, store openings, regional sales and special incentives, all in a centralized application.
“Speed of development is something we’ve been pushing for a while. With the in-house POS instead of the third-party POS, we are able to integrate new modules in less than three weeks, and we’ve already added alternative payments and a customer loyalty program.”Daniel Zárate, Direct to Consumer Technology Director at AB InBev
To make that vision come true, AB InBev entrusted VTEX with setting up the technological backbone of the POS. The partnership in Mexico started in June 2021, but VTEX had been working in partnership with AB InBev in several markets since 2016, which meant the collaboration was already off to a good start.
“The end of the third quarter and the rest of the fourth quarter are going to be about prioritizing what we need. We’re advancing at the speed that we have to, but I do think that the full impact of this partnership will be evident during the first half of next year. The POS, for example, is already done and we’re just conducting tests to ensure stability.”Daniel Zárate, Direct to Consumer Technology Director at AB InBev
As part of the project, AB InBev is leveraging several of VTEX’s components, such as its OMS, its catalog module and its promotion engine in order to accomplish everything it had on its wishlist. VTEX partners with Amazon Web Services for a cloud-based ecommerce structure. With AWS, retailers tap flexible, elastic cloud services that easily scale up or down depending on demand, for instance.
When the POS is deployed nationally, AB InBev will be able to gather data on each individual store and easily identify the best and worst performing products and locations, as well as the average value of a store and the ideal moment to process a particular refill order.
The POS is just the first step in this ambitious project, but AB InBev and VTEX already know what the ultimate goal is: one of the most intricate retail omnichannels out there.
Next steps and reasons to get excited
The other side of the project is the International Courier Platform (ICP) called Modelorama Now. It is a mobile app that already takes advantage of the ICP and that allows users to buy beer and get it delivered quickly in select cities.
“The Modelorama project was split in two pieces because of the complexity of the POS, but the desire is for the POS to be able to receive orders in this marketplace of marketplaces and have this end-to-end connection, which would be beautiful.”Thiago Garcia, VP of US Customer Experience at VTEX
Zarate claims that the POS, in its current iteration, shouldn’t even be called a POS. The problem, he says, is that the actual extension of it is too hard to explain and a POS is something that everyone is familiar with. This goes way beyond such a tool.
“We’re building an omnichannel retail platform. What we’re doing is setting up the basis to have technology inside brick-and-mortar stores and have a centered platform that will allow us to truly treat these stores as just another sales channel, with pick-up in-store and ship-from-store.”Daniel Zárate, Direct to Consumer Technology Director at AB InBev
This coalition would significantly bring down delivery times for stores that currently work as a centralized distribution channel.
“With a good data analysis and good segmentation we can enable certain Modelorama locations to deliver specific SKUs in under three hours: with the POS we will get the order, manage our stock and send out for delivery.”Daniel Zárate, Direct to Consumer Technology Director at AB InBev
Mexican consumers are used to buying beer in physical locations around the territory, a lot of them Modeloramas. Now, a well-oiled omnichannel machine pushed by a leading company will try to break tradition in order to be present in more customer journeys.