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Launching a home delivery service in 6 days
September 14, 2020

A couple of days before Covid-19 lockdown, Carrefour launched Les essentiels, a new home delivery service. Let’s take a peek at the backstage.

The idea raised in early March 2020, as we forecasted a potential Covid-19 lockdown. Worldwide, our teams were imagining and designing potential solutions to secure food access for the population.

In France, our playground was structured around three design principles

Our initial thinking helped us carve out three principles we agreed never to step-out from:
Self-standing – Our service needed to be able to operate independantly of our traditional e-commerce channels. We knew the demand was going to rise way above our capacities and wanted to protect existing channels. So we needed to think beyond existing capabilities
Supply-proof – We could play with ~100 SKUs, and needed to totally secure their supply. We could not imagine uncomplete bundles and knew some products were going to be hard to stock
Desirable – We were facing the toughest evaluators: consumers. In a context of economic constraint, our objective was to offer a very affordable service (i.e., maximum of 5€/day/person for the 3 meals) an combine it with an attractive fulfillment process

Our simple, straightforward idea for a new delivery service

After a few hours of problem solving, we came up with Les Essentiels :
– Fixed day home delivery of food bundles, based on your location
– Starting at less than 5€/day/person
– Available in Paris and its suburbs, for a start
– Garanteed availability of the products, no matter what
And it would be live in 5 days.

The magic happens

The magic started to happen at that right moment. The kind of magic that reveals the best of human-kind at work!
Of course the special Covid-19 context was key. Each and single one of us had the burning internal will to be part of a meaningful journey that would relief our customers and provide them with their basic groceries, delivered at home.

Our Operations teams found a warehouse, ordered the supplies, designed the best-in-class picking method and found a transport partner. Our e-commerce teams solved the bundles composition, the customer service process and the pricing. And, our innovation team solved the administrative, legal and GDPR topics. Finally, our Tech team, who partnered with astonishing freelancers, managed to setup a scalable, security proof cloud platform.
And there we were. Five days later, with a friends&family version of Les Essentiels.

E-commerce et Covid-19 : Les dessous de la création du service Les Essentiels de Carrefour
Les essentiels, version 76 😉

So we kicked-off with five food bundles and two Personal Hygiene and Home cleaning bundles, to proof-test the service.
And guess what? It worked! The first orders started to flow.
As our customers were asking for more diversity, we launched Fresh fruits and vegetables bundles the week after – thank you Potager City – and local Cheese boxes the following one – thank you Savencia. Then arrived pre-cooked meals with DejBox. The rest of the offering kept on evolving almost weekly to better fit our customer’s needs (e.g., Kid bundle).

“We were particularely proud to see Les essentiels become the second most desirable “Covid-19 service” with 58% of the votes” Source : LSA Kantar Media survey

Two weeks after launch, the service was scaled to Italy (i.e., Gli Ezzentiali) and simultaneously welcomed a Drive version in Lyon and Bordeaux.
As of today, we have reviewed the model to deliver fresh grocery bundles in almost all France. In parrallel, the Les essentiels platform became our “lab” solution to pre-test e-commerce concepts before launch at scale on

Looking back at what made it happen

Looking back, I would say three assets made the difference during the design and execution of this delivery service initiative :

KISS (i.e., Keep it Smart and Simple)

KISS simplicity was our moto. We streamlined everything, from the UX to the Operating model. Opening a warehouse takes usually 2 months? We’ll do it in a day. Signing a contract with a supplier takes 3 months? We’ll do it in a week! Our cross-functional problem solving sessions were, undoubtely, what enabled us to find clever turnarounds for all the challenges paving our road.


We had no clue about what the service would evolve towards, but we were absolutely certain of one thing: the customer would be the one stearing our roadmap. Everyday, we would review the comments and ratings, call a bunch of customers, summarize the insights, ideate and implement improvements and evolutions in order to deliver the best e-commerce customer experience possible given the situation.


I’ve always been a strong believer of the power of Agile and a very strong believer in People. Even if the methodology was rather new to a large part of the team, the key principles were totally operating after a couple of days. Team members were exhaustively cross-functional, empowered to both take decisions (i.e., we often encourage our teams not to ask for permission but to ask for forgiveness 😉 and act/behave as Carrefour. Each of us very naturally and efficiently stepped out of our confort zone, feeling that we had the right to fail but the obligation to try hard!

Last, a quick word to our customers

Every encouragment, feedback, comment, was really a fantastic gift and we thank you for that. We were not perfect and you forgave us, pushing us to improve every single day of the lockdown. Thank you again for your trust and support.

Do not hesitate to check our other articles about e-commerce projects.

About the Author

Digital and Omnichannel experience Director Valérie is a seasoned digital strategist with +20 years of experience in innovation and design-led transformations. She raises chickens, three kids, and grows her vegetables.

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