13. December 2021 | Interview, Retail Marketing, Shopping Today

Why Coolblue, the former pure play consumer electronics retailer, is also creating a brick-and-mortar presence

by Katja Laska (exclusively for EuroShop.mag)

Cell phones, laptops, washing machines, and televisions – German consumers used to purchase these products online, but can now buy them in-store at Kö-Bogen II in Düsseldorf. Dutch company Coolblue sells consumer electronics online but opened the doors of its first brick-and-mortar store in Germany just a few weeks ago.

Bart van der Vis, Head of Coolblue Germany, told us why this step makes sense, explains why Düsseldorf is the perfect location, and reveals why the right product journey is just as important as an ideal customer journey.

Bart, let’s talk customer satisfaction: What is it and what makes it so important?

Bart van der Vis: Customer satisfaction depends on the product. Let’s take a washing machine, for example. When are you typically looking to buy one? When your old washing machine has just broken down. As a customer, you want the problem fixed immediately, at a time that suits you best. When you order a washing machine from Coolblue, our service delivers and installs your washing machine anytime you want. We also remove your old washing machine and take it with us. This type of customer journey suits and satisfies customers and is an essential building block that makes them happy.

Man without hair in light blue shirt and glasses smiling at camera; copyright: Coolblue

©Coolblue

Until recently, Coolblue was primarily an online retailer. Why does your company now also create a presence in brick-and-mortar retail?

Early on, physical stores were already part of our retail strategy in the Netherlands and Belgium. The stores are an extension of our website and app. Our physical shops give us opportunities and options we don’t have in our online marketplace. For example, customers can test the level of sound and comfort of headphones, try out the coffee of a coffee maker and experience the picture quality of TVs. Apart from physically seeing, and trying products before buying them, consumers can also get one-on-one advice from our experts, pick up their online orders, and take advantage of our customer service.

Belgium, the Netherlands, and now Germany: From a retail perspective, how do these markets differ and why is Germany (also) the right place for you to do business?

In every country, people have different needs, wants, and behaviors, but they also have a lot in common. Many of our customer journeys fit all three countries – including the one I described for the washing machine.

Düsseldorf store from the outside; copyright: Coolblue

©Coolblue

Why did you choose Düsseldorf as a location?

We already count many people from Düsseldorf among our customers. By opening our largest store in Düsseldorf, we want to attract even more new customers from the region. We chose Kö-Bogen II because of its perfect location and building design. Not only does it have the greenest facade in Europe, but it is also located right in the heart of Düsseldorf, making it easy for our customers in and around the area to come visit us.

How do you create the ideal customer journey?

We want to make a difference in the lives of our customers, which is why we create a customer journey that keeps our customers and their needs at the center of the experience from start to finish. To do this, we have set up our own infrastructure, which includes our own delivery network, installation services, bike delivery network, and stores. For each product, we pick the elements of our infrastructure that best service our customers’ needs and apply them in the product journey.

Düsseldorfer Store von außen; copyright: Coolblue

©Coolblue

What do you mean by product journey?

Let’s take TVs, for example. The product journey relies on the customer’s experience with the product. As a first step, the customer must pick the right size. To make it easier for him or her to determine whether the TV fits the place he/she had in mind, we developed an in-app augmented reality function. The customer can virtually position the TV in his/her home and choose the size that is the best fit. Apart from the TV size, customers also need to choose the image quality they prefer. To assist, we provide a detailed explanation of the respective technical terms and acronyms on our website and feature an in-store display wall for support. We also appreciate that some customers prefer to assess the picture quality with their own eyes, which they can also do in our stores. Once the customer has picked the TV that best suits him/her, we deliver it via our CoolblueLiefert delivery service.

What has changed since you opened physical stores?

We noticed a higher customer satisfaction in areas where we have a physical store. Customers also buy more items online in this setting. Physical stores build customer trust: consumers know they can stop by if they need to return or exchange an item or if the product is damaged or defective.

How is this improved customer satisfaction reflected?

Customer satisfaction is our top priority. We measure customer satisfaction continuously with the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Our current NPS is 68. To achieve a high NPS, we must know and understand our customers’ needs and expectations because we want to exceed them and maximize the services we can provide.

Tags: brick-and-mortar retail, customer journey, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, customer service, delivery, omnichannel
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