Aladdin DCS: Xtra app and website, 4 years in the making

The past years, Catherine Rouge and Hein Coulier have spent supporting their teams at Colruyt Group in the development of Xtra, in the Aladdin DCS programme. A programme with 1 goal: to make Xtra the only personal assistant for Colruyt Group. One app that provides access to all digital customer services. With success: in April 2024, the last milestone was reached with the full decommissioning of the Collect&Go app, allowing to close the Aladdin DCS programme and to transfer the results to the standing organisation. Time to talk with Catherine and Hein about how they guided the Aladdin DCS programme to a successful conclusion and their thoughts on the future.

What was the main goal for Xtra?

Catherine responds, “Thanks to the Aladdin DCS programme, our customers can now use Xtra to prepare their shopping in all the Colruyt Group food brands, unlike in the past, when there were three different apps: Xtra, MyColruyt, and Collect&Go.

In September 2022, before the first go live of the new Xtra app, we had a total of 380,000 users on all three apps together. More than 200,000 users had at least two of the three apps on their phone! With ease of use and saving time and money for our users as the ultimate goals, the idea originated to combine the three apps into one integrated app: Xtra.

This is how the Aladdin DCS group programme was launched, a creative reflection of our vision of Xtra: a personal assistant who, like the genie in the lamp in the Disney film, grants all your wishes. Refuelling at DATS 24, shopping at Colruyt Lowest Prices, ordering via Collect&Go: Xtra is the ecosystem that makes our customers’ lives easier, by giving access to all our digital products and services.

We decommissioned the MyColruyt app at the end of 2023, and in April 2024, the Collect&Go app was shut down. Xtra is now the only personal shopping assistant of the group, and totals more than 1.5 million downloads. I am extremely proud, not only of what we have achieved, but of how we achieved it.

Catherine, business unit manager Xtra
I’m exceptionally proud of our team and the fact that our app currently has 3.5 million feature hits per month, which clearly reflects the results of our hard work.

How did you approach this?

Hein explains, “One of the ambitions for Aladdin was to establish an organisation that could create and maintain all these digital services. This resulted in the Digital Factory. Developing everything internally was not an option. We simply did not have the right knowledge and resources in-house for such a large project. That’s why we brought three different partners into the project. The development platform Azure was still quite new to us and we also had to learn to switch gears very quickly. As you can imagine, this required quite a lot of coordination, but by combining our strengths, we were able to succeed.

We worked with a total of 980 people over a period of 4 years. In other words, we needed a broad and agile approach: SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework. This enabled us to build and continuously fine-tune different features. Externally, the primary focus was on building the software, and internally, we ensured integration into the existing IT landscape at Colruyt Group. Just look at the list of functions in the Xtra app: pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? Seamless pay, thousands of recipes, promotions, shopping lists, and a sustainability programme: these are the result of a lot of hard work.”

Catherine adds, “Setting up the Xtra ecosystem took longer than expected. As time passed by, we had to add additional scope to stay relevant once we would go live, in addition to embarking other Colruyt Group priorities (such as the sustainability programme).

In September 2022, we released the first version to the market. After two years of work by the teams, it was like the first day of school. I remember very well the sense of euphoria in the office during that time. We had finally managed to replace the old Xtra app with the new one, the product was stable and it contained 80% of the transversal app features. We were really proud!

This would not have been possible without the teams. We gained a lot of knowledge, as did the partners. But what struck me most was that every single person involved was eager to contribute, which is why these joint efforts yielded results. I’m exceptionally proud of our team and the fact that our app currently has 3.5 million feature hits per month. This clearly reflects the results of our hard work. A feature hit is what we measure after a user finishes a task in a session (e.g. create a shopping list). 3.5 million! That’s huge.

Feestje Aladdin

A reason to celebrate even?

Catherine responds, “With the end of the programme, after our last milestone was reached, we had plenty of reasons to celebrate. In March, we organised an Arabian Nights party for everyone who contributed to this programme in some way – with an ‘Aladdin’ theme, of course. It was a fun way to blow off some steam together.

Now we can fully concentrate on improving the app based on users’ feedback, and bring in new features that are relevant for the constant evolving needs of our users.

Hein comments, “Absolutely, but we’re also eager about the future. As mentioned earlier, our knowledge and maturity has increased tremendously as a result of this programme. We release a new version of the app every 2 weeks! We now want to internalise the knowledge of our external partners and attract recruits with the right know-how. After this successful programme, the time is right to do so.

Hein, business unit manager Digital Factory
Our knowledge and maturity has increased tremendously as a result of this project. We now want to internalise the knowledge of our external partners and attract recruits with the right know-how.

What does the future hold for Xtra?

Catherine adds: “In the upcoming three years, our ambition is to double the number of feature hits, by adding new features and new partners. We integrated Newpharma and are working on maintaining Dreamland after their carve out from the group. Next to that, we are exploring on how to integrate other Colruyt Group brands (Klassewijnen, Collect&Go Deals, …) best into the app.

We also want to take further steps in the level of personalisation in the app. Under the influence of digitalisation, customers currently expect the retail market to treat them as unique individuals and meet their specific needs at their own convenience. For example, we want people on a lactose-free diet to be able to easily filter out products, recipes, search… and that relevant offers and products are being proposed to them. That aligns with Colruyt Group’s focus on Simplify, Empower, Connect: we make it easier for users, put them in charge, and our ecosystem promotes a connection with the brands. 

With the help of AI, we now want to further enhance our features and get Xtra to become a true assistant for our users.”

I hope that all your dreams for the future come true. Thank you for the interview!

Xtra app