How craftsmen benefit from e-commerce in the hardware store


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2018)

Not long ago, the relationship between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail was viewed as channel conflict at best, and often just adversarial.  Retailers were fearful of losing sales and customers to suppliers selling direct to consumer, while suppliers feared damaging channel relationships if they implemented e-commerce. Consumers on the other hand have become increasingly omnichannel, with high expectations set on retailers and their e-commerce channels being complementary. They expect a seamless experience across multiple devices and channels and often utilise multiple options to complete a single transaction. 

E-commerce sites, with their ability to provide rich product data in various content formats – from comprehensive product descriptions, photos, videos to user reviews – aren’t just for online sales. They educate consumers, adding value to brick and mortar retail. A recent report by Deloitte highlights that more than 71 per cent of brick and mortar sales start with an online experience, with 56 per cent of in-store spending influenced by a digital interaction. People who engage online have looked up product information, checked and compared prices online, subscribed to a product’s or store’s email list, clicked an email advertisement to find out more, searched for promotional coupons and liked, tweeted, and commented on a product or store on social media.

While the need for and benefits of an omnichannel strategy in today’s digital world may seem obvious, the pitfalls are just as real. Expanding into new and complementary channels exposes inefficiencies in a company’s upstream and downstream product and customer data management systems, with older systems in particular still requiring a great deal of manual data handling. Digital strategies challenge the internal workings of many businesses. For some, “going digital” means increasing operational complexity, putting strains on systems, increasing costs and data errors.

Product Information Management (PIM) represents one of those fundamental technological pieces that help retailers close the gap between what they offer and the digital expectations of their customers. PIM has a measurable impact on the digital experience and simplifies the shopping process for all the parties involved. Through PIM, retailers can create a consistent brand experience across all the digital and brick and mortar channels. Working to connect the in-store customer experience to the online brand experience in order to maximise engagement, loyalty, and revenue.  

To highlight this scenario, we at Riversand Technologies recently sat down with Laurence Bordier, Manager Project Management at Maxeda Group DIY in Brussels, to discuss how one retailer is enhancing its in-store shopping experience with seamless product data across all channels.

What is Maxeda DIY?

Maxeda DIY Group is the largest DIY retailer in the Benelux countries with over one million weekly customers, four different store brands, nearly 400 stores, 7000 employees and eleven exclusive product brands.

What is Maxeda DIY’s most significant digital challenge?

Maxeda DIY is behind in offering our customers access to online information and ordering, we also lack a single view of our customers and our products.

Against that backdrop, can you describe your overarching digital goal?

Our goal is to become an omnichannel business, but use digital channels to complement physical stores, not replace them.

Why is a PIM/DAM necessary?

Most significantly, it’s needed for speed and accuracy. At Maxeda, we find it hard to collaborate internally without structure, and by structure, I mean a single place where information lives. Previously, we lacked a single view of our products, we lacked a single repository needed for putting together the right product information and digital assets all in one place. To become truly omnichannel, Maxeda had a need for a standardised content and information storage approach that works across all geographies and is useful for all downstream channels. Our customers expect online access to information, but the quality of product information on our website was quite weak at a very fundamental level, making it hard for our customers to find information about products and to order online. Customers were presented inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate information. One of the root problems we had was that the collaboration with our suppliers was still too manual, resulting in incomplete information with a process that was very time-consuming and prone to errors. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the collaboration with our marketing partners was also very manual and slow, making it very hard to for us to have digital assets created quickly and efficiently. This of course negatively impacted our go-to-market timelines for new products. Our outdated system of product data management was anchoring us in the past.  In order to effectively manage and expand our product lines or offer additional shopping portals – such as m-commerce – we needed to invest in our future.

Can you describe your PIM/DAM goal?

Our goal with PIM and DAM is to provide the foundation for improving our time-to-market and delivering accurate information across all channels. Having a platform to effectively manage our product information will provide us with a “single source of truth” for all product data.  With improved product information in-house, we can provide our consumers with accurate and consistent product information across all channels. In addition, PIM and DAM help us with projects in progress, for example, building a mobile app for online buying and to help customers digitally interact in store, as well as future investments in product lines and adding more information to our online catalogue. DAM enables better collaboration with marketing partners resulting in faster asset creation.

Where does MDM/PIM fit in? What specific challenges does it solve?

Product digitisation is key to getting correct, on-time product information to the customer, supplier and internally. Its fundamental to other digital initiatives. Our ultimate goal is having a visible, collaborative supply chain. For this, we need a GS1 Connector and Vendor Portal to better collaborate with suppliers

Can you describe some of the early outcomes as a result of implementing a Riversand PIM for business units using it so far? 

Well, our early results have been very impressive.  We have already seen increases in productivity and in our top-line/sales.  PIM has enabled faster sharing across different geographies as well as departments.  We have been able to improve our time-to-market for new products and we are a better partner to our suppliers. 

What are some of your other digital goals – beyond Riversand?

Our future digital goals include: CRM to get a single view of our customers for better engagement and communications, a mobile application for online shopping and for enabling digital interactions in-store, improvements in our ERP and inventory management system to make us more nimble, and a new website platform for better customer experience and easier updates. 

What is Maxeda’s omnichannel View?

For us, the Netherlands is the most digitally advanced market. Our customers in all regions (especially Belgium and Luxembourg) still prefer to complete their DIY projects by visiting our stores. Our online presence is a complement to in-store sales, our customers may research online and in-store, and our new mobile app (once it is launched), will enable them to enhance their store experience. Our website will not offer small, inexpensive items such as nails, these should be purchased in store. The online focus is on selling larger, bulkier and pricier items - but our customers will ultimately decide and tell us how they prefer to shop.

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Riversand is a global software company that has a vision of helping companies make their data usable and meaningful. Our Master Data Management platform empowers our clients to know their customers better, move products faster, automate processes, mitigate risk and run their businesses smarter. Our customers, partners and analysts recognise us as a trusted partner, visionary and a leader.

Riversand Technologies Inc.

Maxeda DIY Gruppe

Picture credit © NickS/Getty Images

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