Case study: IGO-POST
When your gut feeling is wrong and the data demands an omni-channel approach
IGO-POST, a seventy-year-old family-run company, is guided by customer behavior and wishes, as digital program manager Dennis Verlijsdonk explains. Now that both prospective and existing customers expect a user-friendly online experience, the focus is no longer on the catalog alone. Instead an omni-channel approach is now the target. The biggest challenge involves obtaining a key customer profile.
IGO-POST labels itself as a company that trades in the experience of giving. It creates printed promotional items and corporate gifts. Today IGO-POST has sales offices in seven countries and employs 350 people. The company has always issued a catalog to its prospects and customers for their selection of gifts, but now that customers are increasingly looking to place orders online and new competitors are catering to this, IGO-POST did not want to be left trailing.
That is why IGO-POST is now aiming to create a seamless omni-channel customer experience. Whether a customer prefers to order out of the catalog by phone (half the company’s customer base still prefers this option) or view the products and order online, the customer experience must be identical, regardless of the channel used. In order to give the online and digital platform a chance, Verlijsdonk was compelled to counter the gut feeling at the company (that catalogs alone were sufficient) with figures – an easy job when adopting an online approach.
The initial experiments
It all started one dramatic summer back in 2012, says Verlijsdonk. “The R.O.I. for our catalog, of which we distributed 1.3 million in 2010, was deplorable. This gave us in the online marketing department the opportunity to experiment with online advertising, which resulted in a thirty percent increase in new customers through our website.” The first step towards IGO-POST’s online success was taken. “It may have been a simple test, but it certainly resulted in a wake-up call.”
That wake-up call saw an increase in budget and resources for the digital platform, with an inter-departmental team of business analysts, developers, and campaign and usability marketers harnessed in. But this created a whole new challenge: “We had to get several generations all moving in the same direction,” the program manager says. One solution has been for the management board to meet with the team after every six-week sprint in order to examine the results, bottlenecks, resources and anything else which may be required.
Catering to cultural differences in a flexible manner
The first sprints were established in 2015 for the purpose of launching the company’s new website. Together with its partners, Fenego and Intershop, IGO-POST created business cases that focused on three themes: how do we make sure that the same customer experience is offered, regardless of the channel; how can we make the online experience so flexible that we can cater to cultural differences; and how do we keep integration with the current ERP and PIM systems simple?
Verlijsdonk says that the cultural differences between the sales offices are one of the challenges IGO-POST is struggling with. “We have a total of seven sales offices in Europe, each with a local marketer. What can be handled locally and what must be done centrally?”, is an omni-present question. At present IGO-POST has decided to select product groups specifically for local markets. In contrast, marketing campaigns are often launched by the head office, and in turn they are published at a local level.
Future-proofing the technology and customer experience
For six months IGO-POST worked in sprints towards their website going live, which finally happened in the summer of 2015, with the reseller channel following in early 2016. Fenego integrated Stibo Systems’ PIM system, in which all product data is managed, in the Intershop Commerce Suite, Intershop’s e-commerce platform. Then it did the same with the Microsoft Axapta ERP system, which focuses on the orders.
The integration means that the company processes are now much simpler, and automatic synchronization has taken the place of manual handling. Customers can now use “My IGO-POST” to see all their orders, whether they were placed by telephone or on the website. As a result both the technology and the customer experience are future-proof, and the same is true for the underlying server, which is now housed with Amazon Web Services. No matter how busy things might get, the website can handle it.
Centralized customer profile
The systems integration is also crucial for creating a centralized customer profile, which Verlijsdonk says proved to be the biggest challenge of all for IGO-POST. “We still don’t know where the customer is on our website when we’re speaking to him or her on the phone, even though we know which catalogs or email sales campaigns they received.”
Now that the entire organizational structure has gone digital there is yet another challenge: “Everybody has an opinion, and that has created some tension between the business and IT departments.” But the customer comes first, of course, and so the customer steers all decisions reached at IGO-POST. “The choice of working online or offline is up to the customer. They are what matters, so if we fulfill their desires we can remain competitive and always stay a step ahead.”