Foodl, an online B2B marketplace that enables open and direct trade for HoReCa entrepreneurs, food and beverage suppliers, was launched in early 2021. The company's goal was clear and ambitious: it was "only" about revolutionizing the HoReCa market by taking it into digital. See what tech stack it chose to achieve this goal.
Foodl, the very first Dutch open food B2B marketplace, was kicked off just before the HoReCa industry shut down due to pandemic, and yet - even though the circumstances couldn't be any harder, the company decided to take advantage of this non-wanted hiatus. Foodl considered that it best to improve its tech stack to be better prepared for what comes after the outbreak. The company was fully aware that the pandemic will speed up the paradigm shift in customer behavior and make omnichannel sales a must. This hunch turned out to be very accurate.
According to the latest data from the US Retail Report from IBM, the pandemic has accelerated the digitization process by about five years. Moreover, the COVID -19 outbreak has shown the importance of technological maturity. Before the turmoil, the companies that started their digital transformation were much better at distance selling, customer service, and organizing the work environment.
Considering this, the timing of Foodl's entry into the market proved to be perfect, especially in terms of technological adaptation and smooth UX: the founders stressed that the platform should be easily accessible and open to all, with credentials required only when a transaction is needed.
The Dutch HoReCa industry, although worth billions of euros, remained at a surprisingly low level of digitalization for years. The main cause of it was that the general direction of making the customer journey exclusively digital doesn't exactly fit into B2B customers' needs. Within this sector lack of "human touch" was damaging to businesses on both sides. On the one hand, suppliers were cut off from their customers' insights, and on the other hand, food entrepreneurs could not negotiate prices. In the results, small business owners shied away from orders because the minimum order cost for delivery was too high, making order fulfillment highly inefficient and scaling complex.
Generally speaking, the action in B2B marketing is not as simple, and customer acquisition takes a different path than it does for consumer-facing businesses. B2B buying is more about logic and B2C buying is about emotion. In practice, this presents a whole different set of challenges that often require much less obvious solutions.
Foodl was perfectly aware of the challenges. The company developed its platform according to the philosophy of well-known marketplaces like Alibaba or Airbnb, which bring supply and demand together but do not have inventories or their own hotels. Just like in these cases, it required a system able to embrace ubiquitous commerce, designed for future integration, allows for scaling, partnerships, and simplifies communication between multiple partners.
To deliver an outstanding omnichannel digital commerce experience and secure future scalability, Foodl decided to bet on MACH technology. Microservices, APIs, Cloud-Native, and Headless, which stand for this acronym, were noted as crucial success factors of Foodl growth. No wonder. MACH technology enabled the company to composable its system from best-of-breed services, from which each is scalable and interchangeable.
Ultimately, Foodl's goal was to create a platform that would perfectly reflect the desired UX and secure the specific B2B demands. The company didn't want to force anything on customers just to shorten the buyer journey, for example. That kind of goal, while legitimate in most B2C eCommerce cases, couldn't have been a priority here.
To fulfill these particular expectations, the company partnered with Mindcurv. The agency was to analyze the customer and partner experience, map their user journeys, define potential bottlenecks and needs, and - based on the input - design UX to match the business processes in the HoReCa industry. Then, before there was time for coding, the tech stack must be have been chosen, and this choice was crucial. Technology had to be flexible enough to address any - existing and future - clients' needs and - at the same time - customizable to smooth (nut not oversimplify) the UX layer.
MACH was a go-to direction. With commercetools as the backend and Vue Storefront as the frontend, the expected level of flexibility was at hand. Both platforms were also a perfect match due to native integration with each other. Most important, however, is that their API-first architectures allowed them to adapt the final eCommerce system to the needs of the business, rather than adapting the needs of the business to the limitations of the system. The Foodl frontend layer was built entirely on Vue Storefront, which opened up a way for adding any 3rd party services (e.g., Headless CMS, payments, search engines, and loyalty programs), smoothing the UX and molding it to reflect the B2B customer journey across multiple touchpoints
"Vue Storefront gave us a quick start and a lot of flexibility. It speeds up implementation with native integrations and numerous OOTB features but doesn't prevent the business from designing and scaling the UX layer. It allows the technology to fit the business needs, not the other way around." Louis Timmer, Product Owner at FoodL
With Foodl, food entrepreneurs could start to buy directly from suppliers, and suppliers were given the ability to manage their products, inventory, and pricing through the supplier portal. A direct communication channel was improved rather than excluded, and the choice of delivery options was expanded to broaden the merchants' options.
The marketplace Foodl facilitated and enriched the direct trade adding real value to it thanks to digital innovation.