"We build relationships" The relationship caretakers: what the new woom e-commerce team are up to
Our e-commerce team is giving their all to care for our relationships. The buyer's experience when purchasing a woom bike is set to change incrementally in the weeks and months to come; it will be tailored ever more closely to the needs of our customers.
Fostering a love of bike riding in children: that is our mission at woom. Along with our efforts to build the perfect product, another matter is taking on increasing importance: our customers' experience and establishing a friendly and responsible relationship – from the very first contact until well beyond the purchase of the woom bike.
This is where our e-commerce team come in. They are working hand-in-hand with our greatly expanded customer service staff to shape this very relationship. "We want to forge a strong bond with our customers," says Jeff Harris, who recently took on the overall leadership of the e-commerce team.
"Being on our website should be fun. We want it to be a place to answer the questions our customers care about. And we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to find what they're looking for."
Combining the e-commerce and dealer networks
With his nearly 20 years' experience in e-commerce, Harris is a veteran who early on saw the possibilities of digital communication and the digital marketplace. The passionate golfer and outdoor sportsman has headed direct-to-consumer (D2C) departments at brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, Bote, and Aqualung, where he led those companies' efforts to market directly to consumers via their online shops.
"Digitalisation and mobile access to the internet have opened up enormous possibilities for online sales," says Harris, "Covid-19 has demonstrated to a lot of people how practical it is to have products delivered right to their doorstep."
E-commerce is taking on an ever more important role in our company as well. In the US, we're going all in when it comes to the D2C market. In Europe, were aiming for a mix of online business and our dealer network: "The real strength is combining the advantages of the different distribution systems in a smart way," says Harris, "There was a time when these two sales channels were on a competitive footing, almost like enemies. I think we've put that time behind us. If you do it right, you get a win-win, especially with a technical product, like a bike."
The platform that connects us with our customers
Many consumers can do quite well on their own if you give them online tutorials and a good service hotline. Others need the "human touch" when they buy a product like a bike or when seeking help with bike assembly or maintenance. But, regardless of whether customers purchase their bikes online or from a dealer, says Harris, "We need a platform that connects us with our customers, a place where they can tell us about their product and how they use it, where they can let us know exactly what they need from us."
Team in Klosterneuburg and Austin
woom e-commerce director Harris is supported by a team of more than 20 employees based at the two company locations in Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, and Austin, Texas. There's a good reason why our e-commerce team comprises international specialists: not everything that works well in the US can simply be implemented in Europe without modification. This is a fact understood all too well by Christian Schneider, who was appointed head of e-commerce in Europe last year. The young father (his daughter was born in the spring of 2020 and is now already a proud rider of her own woom bike) draws on more than ten years of agency work and as a digital marketing and e-commerce executive in the automotive industry. Schneider understands that delivering advertising to the right target-groups along the customer journey – and, above all, the approach to privacy – is different in Europe than it is in the United States. For the moment, at least.
"We've noticed that younger people are less reluctant to provide information about themselves if companies use it to benefit those who provide it," says Schneider:
"More and more customers tend to focus on the benefit when a shop suggests products that conform exactly to their preferences and when this saves them time otherwise spent searching."
Challenge: shipping times
A major challenge in selling children's bikes (and for the bike business in general) – and this goes for 2022 as well – are the repeated delays in component shipments. The effect is that in the first quarter of 2022, we've been focused mainly on working off waiting lists as demand is so much higher than the supply. In 2022, woom wants to continue along its path of some 50 percent annual growth as well. The plan is to accomplish this by tapping new markets, by optimising processes, and by taking pains to provide the best possible service. Another aspect of this will be ratcheting up demand. Schneider says, "This year, for the first time ever, we'll be advertising, and we'll be completely overhauling our performance marketing agendas. That is something new for us insofar as, in the past, our high level of brand awareness has meant that we haven't had to be terribly active to reach our customers.
The best marketing tool: recommendations by satisfied parents
Both Harris and Schneider are unanimous in the assessment that we've been a bit spoiled by the constant high demand for woom bikes for so many years. "Our bikes have been recommended by parents through word-of-mouth," says Schneider, "For years that was our only marketing tool."
"The rather unique state of the bike industry – particularly here at woom – has perhaps made us a bit too complacent when it comes to potential customers on our website," says Harris. He says that it's been too easy for potential customers to simply jump ship. "But we have to develop an appreciation for the fact that every sale we miss out on is a lost sale. When we have a product that's not readily available, that's a lost customer."
Not better advertising, better service
So, in future, what will woom customers find on the website? First and foremost, even better service. This begins with simple functions like registration, which makes it easier to find information on the customer's own bike – warranty information, accessories, replacement parts, assembly instructions and the like. Additionally, there will be a loyalty programme with benefits for loyal customers, waiting list information via text message, etc. This will be enhanced by technologies like augmented reality, which will one day help parents select the right bike for their child.
"From the very beginning, woom has had a strong commitment to direct sales, and Covid has made this channel even more relevant," says Schneider, "The task for me and my team is now to further professionalise this area, add new touchpoints, and offer an ideal shopping experience.
I believe that, especially the young parents, who are in their 20s and 30s today, want somebody with competence, reliability, and credibility to whom they can entrust their children as they embark on their bike riding journey," says Harris, "That's the role we'd like to take on."
Jeff Harris (left) Director of eCommerce
Christian Schneider (right) Head of eCommerce Europe