Via Varejo

  • Case: COVID-19 and the Digital Transformation

A 70% shutdown in sales

Via Varejo is a Brazilian retail giant that owns Casas Bahia and Pontofrio brands, with more than 1,000 stores spread throughout the country. In March 2020, about 70% of its revenue sources shutdown due to measures taken to contain COVID-19, such as quarantine and store closures. Casas Bahia, one of the largest and most traditional brands in the segment, which was in a medium- to long-term process of digital acceleration, found itself facing a challenge: to transfer all their efforts from the physical stores to an online environment right away — and to continue selling online only.

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Stocks plunge

The company presented some delay in the digitalization process of its sales systems, when compared to some of its competitors, which were either born in ecommerce or had become digital in recent years. Due to this factor, the first estimates consolidated a negative perspective about the company's ability to react to a context of restricted circulation, which was abruptly reflected on the value of the stocks: in 13 days, stocks were devalued by more than 60% (from R$ 11.62 on March 10th to R$ 4.41 on March 23th).

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Six areas of digital transformation —

One year in a month

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No. 1 — Social responsibility

Reassuring people taking on the role of social agent, by clarifying the gravity of the situation and reinforcing the need for everyone to stay at home to face this period together.

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No. 2 — Digital platforms

Migrating the consumers' attention to new digital sales channels by exploring the longtail strategy and products that have synergy with the context of people who live in quarantine.

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No. 3 — Humanize the digital environment

Assisting customers accustomed to the physical stores in this transition. Our aim is to help them to browse through the new channels and connect the sales and service teams to the brand in these new ways of consumption.

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No. 4 — Performance and CRM

Creating a communication system around the brand's e-commerce platforms, both to detect and to develop/maintain the relationship with customers by using a database captured in their digital shopping journeys.

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No. 5 — Support people

Taking on the role of a socially conscious brand, by understanding society's needs and presenting ourselves as an agent to connect people and promote social solutions in the challenging context of the pandemic.

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No. 6 — Logistic innovation

Helping to reduce the logistical pressure and at the same time clearing the products of more than 800 stores is a fundamental process to keep the whole operation, and besides that, to deliver the products the way that our consumers prefer.

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As soon as the quarantine was decreed, Casas Bahia wanted to bring a message of support and tranquility. Its intention was to encourage everyone to take care of themselves and stay at home, whereas the company would make clear that they would do their part by taking care of the deliveries so that people did not need to circulate; by taking care of their employees to ensure that everyone was protected; and by taking care, through the Casas Bahia Foundation, of low-income communities and microentrepreneurs.

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We use offline means of communication to activate online sales platforms, expanding the perception of the brand's long tail strategy and focusing on assertive/fitting products to the moment when people cannot leave home. We offer discounts on these most sought-after items and facilities such as free shipping, putting in place a retail in line with the needs and difficulties that people have during their adaptation to quarantine.

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With a campaign called "Call me on WhatsApp", the brand has passed to take people to WhatsApp chats, where they were received by salespeople from the physical stores of their respective regions. They talked to the potential customer and made sales through the Casas Bahia website. With the digitization of all its physical stores and the implementation of WhatsApp Business as the main sales channel, this campaign has brought millions of consumers to e-commerce.

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The “Call me on WhatsApp” campaign encourages people to search the website, app or the brand's fanpage for the most convenient store for them. Then, it places the person a click away from a salesperson on WhatsApp. In addition to our platforms, a series of “click to chat on WhatsApp” ads on Facebook with geolocation technology refer people to start a conversation with the nearest salesperson.

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“We have humanized e-commerce, digitalized our sales force, and most importantly, we have created a relevant service for customers. WhatsApp is a tool that has come to digitize the Brazilian people and even those who have not yet made an online purchase feel confident and assisted by the seller, who proves to be a real aid to helping the costumer make the best decision and during the purchase steps.”


The digitization of the company paves the way for a new, more digital customer profile. The performance communication has helped in this search and expansion of the base of new buyers of the brand, besides collaborating to migrate/convert our habitual buyers, used to the physical stores, into users of our app. All types of messaging tools (push ads, e-mails, remarketing ads) have become a fundamental part of the thinking of all campaigns.

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Via Varejo

Via Varejo has 85 million Brazilians registered in its database. In studies with our databases, we have divided buyers into different groups based on frequency of purchase, average ticket and form of payment (card, cash, installments), category purchased, and place of purchase. 

Once having done this, we have sought out the audiences most likely to make a purchase to show that Casas Bahia was ready to help them buy what they needed at the moment.

Different messages have been tested with each one of the audiences.

For example, for those who buy in installments paying in credit card, we carried out campaigns with emphasis on installments and discounts.

For online shoppers, we have reinforced the variety and logistical force.

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We have taken concrete actions, ranging from measures to preserve the health of our employees to actions to help the population in a situation of social vulnerability. One of the actions that got a lot of publicity was the Live with Sandy & Junior, which is among the most beloved duos in Brazil. In addition to breaking a record of food donation, the event was a way of helping the population to relieve the tension of the moment.

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Via Varejo

Sandy and Junior are a duo that was very popular in the 90s and early 2000s. In 2019, they went on a reunion tour to end the duo and so that they could continue focused on their individual careers.

The tour's success was such that it became the second biggest tour of 2019 in the world, earning US$ 2.2 billion, second only to Elton John's, which earned US$ 2.8 billion during the year.

Therefore, we invited the duo to a new return, but as an incentive for the presentation to be more than just a concert, we launched the challenge of being the Live with the biggest food collection in Brazil.

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One of Via Varejo's great pre-COVID-19 logistical successes was to think of each store as being a small distribution center by offering the possibility to buy online and collect at the store. However, with malls and commercial establishments closed, this modality was also prevented from being continued. At the same time, the advancement of digital sales has increased
the pressure on the company's logistics sector. The solution was to take advantage of stores with parking lots and use them as collection points for products purchased online. A drive-thru for those who are in a hurry to receive, collect products safely and comfortably.

Drive-thru stores

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The digital transformation that put Casas Bahia


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No. 1 — brand

The Casas Bahia brand is among the 10 brands most associated with initiatives to fight COVID-19 in Brazil, in a ranking with more than 250 brands.

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The average number of visits to the site, which used to be around 1.5 million visits, more than doubled and keeps growing week by week, exceeding in May the daily average of 4 million visits.

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No. 3 — app

Organic installs of Casas Bahia app rose by 97% in comparison to the pre-quarantine period, in which it had 11 days more than the current social isolation moment.

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The “Call me on WhatsApp” project has captivated more than 19,000 physical store salespeople which led them to become digital salespeople, and in just over a month they already represented 20% of the total sales on the website.

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Online billing more than doubled. With that, Via Varejo's online sales (website and app) alone, which previously represented 35% of sales, today would equal 65% of the total pre-COVID sales forecast.

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No. 6 — STOCKS

The news about the digitalization of Via Varejo boosted the growth of their stocks by 205% in eight weeks, being one of the stocks with the highest appreciation in the period, well ahead of competitors. (BVMF: MGLU3 +106% | BVMF: BTOW3 +92% | BVMF: MELI34 +80% | BVMF: LAME4 +72%)

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“Have we won this game? The game is never won, the world is changing; the consumer is in transformation. What we have gained was the ability to transform ourselves together with the consumers; we go wherever they go. We will serve the consumers whether by means of a humanized approach in our stores, or by means of an objective approach in our online channels, or by means of a humanized online approach through our online sales team. We carry on strong and determined in our transformation agenda being certain that we have already gone online; we have a strong interaction with our millions of consumers; and we go wherever they go, however they want.”