In a new benchmarking project, we examined and rated the cross-channel customer experience of 145 businesses across seven European countries. Of all the brands we looked at, Netherlands retailer Bever had the highest combined score, so we sat down with CEO Pieter Saman and Omni-channel Coordinator Robert-Jan Tamis, to learn more about the company’s uniquely successful approach.
Customers want to be able to move frictionlessly between all of the channels in which a brand operates, and nowhere in Europe is that expectation met more successfully than at Bever. Our benchmarking project uncovered innovation in everything from their use of in-store technology to their genuinely omni-channel customer service offering. Pieter Saman and Robert-Jan Tamis believe that focusing on the customer is critical, and the story of their omni-channel journey contains a wealth of valuable lessons.
What impact have changing customer behaviours and preferences had on your business?
Pieter: In 2017, we celebrated our 40th anniversary. It all started with a passion for the outdoors and the desire to help people get quality products and good advice to enjoy being outdoors even more. And that mission hasn’t changed. Bever started with one store. When we realised that our customers were travelling from all provinces of The Netherlands to shop with us, we started to open more stores across the country. That could be seen as the first step. Over time, adapting to change has become part of our DNA, as it’s key to keep appealing to your customers. Whether it’s our store portfolio, the products we have on offer or the cross-channel shopping features of our web and mobile presence, we try to meet – or even better exceed – the expectations of our customers.
How do you align the in-store experience with what consumers expect online?
Pieter: At Bever, visitors expect personal attention and advice, and a good understanding of their needs, especially when it comes to their upcoming outdoor activities. We try to embody this in everything we do: from our store staff and customer service all the way to the design and look and feel of our stores, both high street and digital. Good examples of this are the layout and position of our fitting rooms, which are carefully placed along the customer’s in-store journey; our kiosks which provide advice and access to our website for online alternatives; our footwear test track with a steep slope inclining up to three meters; and our in-store mobile battery recharge docks.
Robert-Jan: Comparing the offline experience to what visitors expect online and vice versa, we see a lot of resemblances. It is vital to understand customer behavior. We believe our customers behave omni-channel all the time. When physically in a store, earlier online orientation makes them aware about pricing, information and convenience. When shopping online, an earlier experience in-store (or through friend-referral) makes them aware of our atmosphere, personal advice, services and even how clothes will fit and feel. Examining our touchpoints, we try to unite the experiences in the most transparent way possible, so that our customers are able to behave as they want to. This means that in all of our channels, personal service, advice and content should be tailored to the needs of the customer and functionality and convenience should match with pure players.
What are some of the steps you took as a business to create a seamless and consistent experience for customers across online and offline channels?
Robert-Jan: Change starts with people, so we invested in all of the 900 people working at Bever via workshops and sales training. As a result – from shops to the HQ – everybody has an omni-channel mindset. That translates into several features that help our customers in their omni-channel shopping journey. For example, digital infographics explain our processes and resources step by step and rich customer data is available in all channels. Being transparent and punctual in what you promise and communicate is key. The same content, functionality and convenient delivery options – like click and collect and home delivery – are available between stores and digital. Inside our stores we provide the same online experience you get at home via kiosks with an in-store version of our web shop. These kiosks are carefully positioned in the customer’s journey and feature product scanning and high-end tablet-like touch functionalities. Customers can easily lookup alternative sizes, colors, brands and products, promotions, extended product information, other customers’ reviews and then order with several easy in-store payment options.
How did you measure the impact of your digital campaign on in-store traffic/sales?
Robert-Jan: We work closely together with Google to measure the research online, purchase offline (ROPO) impact of digital campaigns.
How do you currently get customer feedback, spot pain points and identify changes in behaviour and preferences?
Robert-Jan: Over the last few years it has become even more important to really understand your customers’ behaviour and preferences in general and within your own channels. We believe that customer centricity is at the core of what we do. As a result we undertake different methods to understand our customers in the best possible way we can, from analysing web and store behaviour to feedback during various touchpoints in the customer journey, customer service index, and quantitative and qualitative consumer research – across all channels, of course.
Will you optimise the omni-channel experience further? Where do you see most potential?
Pieter: We realise that we need to improve every day to delight our customers, not only now but in the future as well. And let’s be honest, looking at the touchpoints of the customer journey, there’s still room for improvement. Our main focus will always be to offer our customers the maximum in advice and convenience.
Robert-Jan: We believe that our customers change every day, so optimizing our business to that changing behavior is key to delivering the best omnichannel experience. This is a process that never ends. At this point for Bever, I see most potential in innovations that make us really exceed in customer centricity and shopping convenience.