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Behind The Scenes of a 1Billion DKK E-Commerce App
03 Aug 2021
Solar is a leading European sourcing and services company within electrical, heating and plumbing, ventilation and climate and energy solutions. The company has been around for a hundred years but today it is a transformed business with digital at its core. The majority of revenue now passes through digital channels.
The Solar E-commerce app has won several awards, and is known for its exceptional customer experience. Besides being the mobile point of purchase for customers, it increases their productivity with features like scanning, easy ordering, and 1 hour delivery with Fastbox.
Shape has been a partner in developing the mobile E-commerce platform and we recently sat down with Digital Commerce Director, Jann Damgaard Hansen, and Group Marketing Director, Morten Gleerup, to have a conversation about some of the strategic considerations behind Solar’s digital presence and push for innovation in an otherwise conservative industry.
A clear and proactive strategy has paved the way forward
First off, congratulations on yet another award for the Solar mobile commerce app. Just recently you won a Silver for the Danish Ecommerce Award for B2B companies above DKK 200M in revenue – and last year, you took home both a Gold and Silver at the Danish Digital Award. You seem to be getting a lot of praise for your efforts in the mobile commerce space. Why do you think that is?
The primary reason is hopefully that we have created a tool that provide real value for our customers. We sell to both installers and various industries and most of our customers need quick, easy access to our products and services. So, we have focused a great deal on the customer experience and have created solutions that helps the users doing their everyday work. No matter if, they are at a construction site, with their customers, in the production or somewhere else.
Today, the majority of Solar’s revenue moves through digital channels and the mobile platform alone channels more than a DKK 1 billion.
What have been the major milestones in getting to this level of digital business impact?
It’s been a combination of a clear strategy and engagement across all of the Solar organisation. Involvement from top management and proactive strategic choices like the introduction of Fastbox, reducing the number of outlets and implementation of new e-commerce platforms. These have all been important milestones in our journey. But we still have a long way to go and strike to make continuous improvements at all our customer touchpoints.
Let’s talk a little more about Fastbox that really has upped the delivery game.
How did that come about – and what has that required of you?
Launching Fastbox was a key element in us transforming from a wholesaler to a sourcing and services company. We needed to show that we could provide more value to our customers other than just delivering the products from A to B. One drastic step was closing down stores at a time when our competitors were opening up more stores. That allowed us to focus on delivering the products when and how the customers wanted them. Fastbox might seem easy but to keep our promise, we often have to receive the order, find the products, package them and order a delivery within just 12 minutes. That takes a special commitment and focus but in the end it enables our customers run a better and more efficient business.
Digital Commerce Director, Jann Damgaard Hansen and Group Marketing Director, Morten Gleerup
The winning formula is based on courage and organising around the customers
Obviously, carrying out digital transformation at this scale cannot have been an easy task.
Looking back, what was the most difficult barriers or challenges to overcome? And is there something you wish you had done differently, knowing what you know today?
With an annual turnover of more than DKK 11 billion, it takes courage to make major changes to your business. Luckily, “courage” is one of our values and most of our employees have also seen the need for these changes. Previously we have been a quite decentralized organization, so aligning cross borders has been a challenge. Furthermore, we sell more than 1 million different articles across countries to a large number of different customer segments, which increase the complexity tremendously.
Your value proposition when it comes to your ecommerce platforms seems to be quite attractive.
What do you see as most significant benefits or features underpinning that proposition?
At Solar, we don’t just sell products, but also offer a number of services to our customers. This can be logistical solutions, warehouse solutions, handling of goods, education, and much more. This brings us closer to our customers’ business and provide valuable data we can use to customize the digital experience. The more interactions we have with our customers, the better we can service them. This way our digital solutions work both ways i.e. they create both the basis for learning more and for improving the customer journey.
Managing a large-scale, complex operation like yours across many systems, accumulating loads of data and with a desire to give the customer the best possible experience must require some intelligent ways of working.
Can you talk about how you’re organized today and what you see as the core capabilities in running a customer experience focused business?
Sometimes we joke about our organizational structure being like a matrix within a matrix. This setup requires a lot of our employees, but it also ensures that we always focus on our customer’s needs (not just high level) and are close to our everyday business. We have a quite customer oriented operating model within all commercial tracks and our digital value proposition taps directly into how work life is organized at our customers: our product assortment, the availability of our products, accessibility 24/7, real-time pricing, logistic services and much more.
Giving customers an “out-of-pocket” experience by solving their problems
The mobile app has played a big role in growing the share of Ecommerce.
What do you think should be the most important factor in delivering the mobile experience – and how do you see the app in relation to the rest of the digital ecosystem?
If we should only put one word to it: usability. The mobile experience is the digital touchpoint most users meet and it delivers a “out-of-pocket“ experience that makes us constantly present and relevant 24/7. That is the most important factor in being top of mind with customers. Usually it’s the combination of several factors that create real value and that help solve specific challenges with our customers. One example is the combination of our app, our Fastbox and our Solar Plus assortment. We have found that when installers have an urgent issue they can order a Solar Plus product (always on stock) via the app (easy access) and via a Fastbox (fast delivery). This combination solves a very specific problem for our customers.
Looking to the future, you’ve already achieved some impressive results but you also find yourself in an industry where some of your competitors are also making major investments in E-commerce and the use of advanced digital technology.
Perhaps you can share some of your thoughts on how to stay ahead and maintain a competitive edge?
As mentioned before we still have quite a journey ahead of us. COVID-19 has only increased the speed of the digital transformation and it will be crucial that we create a culture that both embrace and take advantage of an ever-changing market (and world). There is not a simple answer to that question. But we feel the key will be to keep focus on the needs of our customers and then use the new digital opportunities to meet these rather than the other way around.