June 18, 2024
9
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The Metro Group - an ecosystem player in the role of an Orchestrating Enabler

Metro’s evolution from wholesaler to service provider boosts B2B value via digital tech and strategic partnerships as an Orchestrating Enabler.

A photo of the Metro Group headquarters featuring Metro flags and the Ecosystemizer logo.

Ecosystem business models are still difficult for many managers to understand and even more difficult to implement. This is expressly not their fault!

Rather, we scientists and consultants need to work even harder to convey the benefits in a more comprehensible way.

Fred and I have talked a lot about the Ecosystemizer Strategy Map and the three most important roles in it when it comes to the strategic view with the human end customer at the center: Orchestrator, Realizer and Enabler. Today, we want to demonstrate the relevance of these roles and the applications and derivations for B2B companies in particular using European Retail giant Metro Group as an example.  

What you will learn by reading this article:

  • Metro's transformation from a conventional wholesaler to a provider of comprehensive services has significantly increased its value to B2B customers.
  • How Metro is embracing digital platforms and technologies to improve operational efficiency and respond effectively to market demands. 
  • The ways in which Metro is entering into strategic partnerships, expanding its service offerings and strengthening its ecosystem in a particular role as an Orchestrating Enabler.
Roles in the Ecosystem

Using the Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H) perspective, ecosystem players can be categorized into three possible roles for companies depending on their relationship with the final customer. 

Orchestrators have direct contact with the final customer/end-user and take over the management of the customer interface. Realizers are the providers of actual products and services for the final customer/end-user. Enablers act as supporters of Realizers, Orchestrators, or other Enablers, but don’t have direct contact with the final customer/end-user. 

B2B companies are summed up in the Enabler role. They are providers of products, content, and services for other companies. Because Enablers are not in direct contact with the end user, they often do not get the entire picture of the changes that are driven by new preferences and adaptations in the way people live. 

From our training and consulting projects, we have also come to realize that especially medium-sized companies in particular feel "left behind" here. They have often made a name for themselves with their B2B business and naturally find it difficult to change and expand their mindset to a holistic human-centric ecosystem perspective. Many of them have optimized their role in a traditional value chain operating model. They are not prepared for the ecosystem era with more integrated business models and end-to-end experiences designed for the human end-consumer. The consequence ist not to offer end consumer-oriented offerings by themselves. However, they should take into account the ecosystem-driven developments from the human side and the B2C businesses in their industry and from adjacent domains because otherwise they risk damaging their existing business. 

Why is that? In the future, our economy will be more and more integrated, driven by ecosystems ranging from industrial production to our private homes. AI will accelerate this development. Our entire business and personal life will be managed by intelligent copilots that guide us through our daily routines, supporting and facilitating our most important tasks. To make this scenario a reality, companies will need to collaborate much more than they do today. Ecosystems will become the catalyst for these offerings, and every company must answer the question of how to participate in and how to benefit from this future. As a result, Enablers have to take into account which human needs are addressed by a particular offering as described in the E2H paradigm

Moreover, Enablers are faced with the threat of commoditization within their B2B stack. Thus, they have to find differentiators to remain relevant for other Enablers. Ultimately, they must strive for anything that helps their clients do more and better business. This can only be done by thinking forward in a broader logic of “customer of the customer” needs. The more they understand the holistic perspective, the better Enablers will be able to create value for the entire ecosystem. 

So today, let's focus on a particular role in the ecosystem that has already been mentioned before, but that we seem to be under-communicating: the Orchestrating Enabler.

Basically, the Orchestrating Enabler has its main focus on orchestrating between supply and demand or providing integrated solutions, i.e., improving service levels or efficiency for other companies (no matter what their particular role is). Potential topics include sourcing of raw materials, managing data for machine engineering companies, building integrated infrastructure, setting technical standards (such as 5G), optimizing logistics services (e.g., warehousing, freight/shipping), or connecting B2B software (including office collaboration tools).

Orchestrating Enabler and B2B Ecosystems

A good example of this is the Metro Group, which plays a key role in its ecosystem with more than 620 Metro stores. The company has been an Orchestrating Enabler in its original function of "wholesale" since the beginning. As a full-range supplier, Metro provides the food service industry (retailers) with almost everything they need to operate their business model from a single source: Food, business equipment for kitchens and restaurants, financing, delivery service, warehousing, online ordering and much more. Metro therefore takes over orchestrating a comprehensive offering for the Realizers and Orchestrators by taking over the acquisition and contracting of other Enablers as well as purchasing and logistics for the Realizers and Orchestrators. This approach provides more value and a better experience for restaurants compared to direct interaction with each individual Enabler, e.g. to negotiate, make purchases and organize the logistics and financing themselves.

In the Ecosystemizer Strategy Map, it looks like this. 

Ecosystem Strategy Map Metro Group

Before analyzing the Ecosystem Strategy Map for Metro, it is important to emphasize Metro's role as an Orchestrating Enabler. Metro provides support to the Hotel/Restaurant/Café (HoReCa) sector and traders by offering a diverse range of products, from food to business equipment, as well as services such as financing and online ordering. Metro’s strategy includes the use of digital platforms such as METRO MARKETS, which targets HoReCa customers for professional equipment, and a comprehensive delivery service that efficiently delivers products to businesses. This combination of in-store and online solutions, along with logistical support, highlights Metro's essential role in connecting and streamlining operations for suppliers and retailers within its ecosystem.

The Ecosystem Strategy Map for Metro reveals the company's role as a dynamic Orchestrating Enabler, connecting suppliers and retailers in a cohesive network. This role is crucial in facilitating the flow of goods and services efficiently and sustainably. Metro anticipates market trends and meets the evolving needs of the FMCG and retail sectors through strategic collaborations and technology. The map illustrates Metro's dedication to providing digital solutions and access markets holistically for small and medium-sized enterprises. This reflects its core mission to drive growth, innovation, and sustainability within its ecosystem. This strategic approach aims not only to enhance operational efficiency but also to create a platform for collective success and resilience across the ecosystem.

When examining Metro's Ecosystem Strategy Map, it gets clear that Metro is addressing the needs of its B2B customers through this comprehensive ecosystem approach. The company enhances its offering by connecting producers and retailers, always with an eye on the end consumer. 

Metro's role as an Enabler is not only about logistics and supply chain management, but also about creating a dynamic, adaptive, and sustainable ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders. This drives value creation at every level of the food service and retail sectors.

This strategic mapping highlights the two pathways available to medium-sized companies within Metro's ecosystem: 1) aligning with Metro as an Orchestrating Enabler or 2) Creating unique solutions within this framework. The selection primarily depends on a company's assets, capabilities, and comprehension of client needs, emphasizing the significance of strategic alignment with the overall ecosystem goals.

The most suitable option for a company always depends on its assets, capabilities, and the specific client needs. Let’s think this even one step further: Through corresponding ecosystem cooperation, AI and data sharing, it would be possible to anticipate new trends in human behavior. Strengthened collaborations among retailers, producers, and farmers demonstrate how ecosystem participants can utilize collective competencies and data to improve existing services and develop new solutions that address evolving consumer needs.

Reflecting on the Metro Group's strategic evolution as an Orchestrating Enabler within the Ecosystem Business Models landscape, we gain insights and learnings. This exploration through the lens of the Metro Group not only unravels the complexities of ecosystem integration, but also underscores the imperative for B2B companies to adapt and thrive in this interconnected environment. Looking at current buzz topics like AI and sustainability we can imagine various potential use cases and business models with Orchestrating Enablers. For instance, in the context of circular economy and second life usage in categories like fashion, consumer electronics or automotive (in particular batteries in e-vehicles) B2B ecosystems operated by Orchestrating Enablers could create significant value and solve human problems better than traditional single company offerings. 

Essential key learnings from the Metro Group's ecosystem strategy:

  • Strategic ecosystem integration: Metro Group's clever ecosystem integration has strategically strengthened its presence as a key player in the FMCG and retail industry, enhancing its resilience to market changes.  
  • From wholesale to total solutions: By moving from its traditional role as a wholesaler to providing a holistic range of solutions, Metro has had a significant impact on customer loyalty.  It provides customized and comprehensive solutions to B2B customers through its diverse offerings, financing options, and logistics support.
  • Cultivating strategic partnerships: In the role of an Orchestrating Enabler Metro has greatly improved the overall value proposition of its ecosystem for customers through strategic partnerships.
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The Metro Group - an ecosystem player in the role of an Orchestrating Enabler

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