With everything we do at Coolblue, we keep our 2 goals in mind: setting the bar for customer-centric entrepreneurship and creating value. They are of equal importance and although optimizing NPS and EBITDA might seem like 2 contradictory goals, in practice, we actually see that they reinforce each other.
NPS & EBITDA
In order to realize our goals, we measure everything, because only then can we improve our performance and continue to exceed the customer’s expectations. Using value trees, we map out the impact of every underlying driver of the NPS and EBITDA. This approach enables us to optimize every step of our product journeys, either by adding value or by reducing costs. This way, making customers happy not only leads to customers coming back more often and recommending us to others, but it is often also the most cost-effective approach on an operational level.
The most customer-centric product journey
In order to truly make a difference for our customers and stand out in our market, we offer customer-centric product journeys instead of competing on picture, price, and button. We develop product journeys from start to finish that make the customer happy. In every step of these product journeys, we want to exceed the customer’s expectations and maximize the service we can offer. To achieve this, we have built our own infrastructure in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, which consists of, among others, our own delivery network, installation services, bike network, and stores.
Per product type, we identify the underlying needs of customers, select the elements of our infrastructure that support these needs, and implement them in the product journey. The result is the most customer-centric product journey, in which we can add value and reduce costs in every step.
To demonstrate how we do this, an example is given for our customer-centric product journeys for washing machines, televisions, and laptops.
The most customer-centric product journey for washing machines
A customer usually buys a new washing machine because their current appliance broke down. They need it quickly, but cannot transport an 80-kilogram appliance themselves and have to be home for delivery. To fulfill these needs, we have our 2-man delivery service, CoolblueDelivers. Through our real-time route planning, we even offer the customer the choice of a time slot for delivery and installation, every day of the week, including evenings. That way, they do not need to take a day off or skip a tennis lesson.
During the chosen time slot, Coolblue delivery drivers place and install the appliance where the customer needs it, even if this is on the 4th floor or in their basement. Our delivery drivers also bring external components for installation from our own BlueBuilt brand, which they can instantly supply if the customer needs them.
Creating circular value
If the customer wants us to, we take their old appliance back with us. We try to recover as much value as we can from these appliances, by repairing and refurbishing them at our depots. Refurbished washing machines are sold at a discounted price through various channels. What remains of the disposed appliances is processed in an environmentally friendly manner.
The most customer-centric product journey for televisions
The journey for televisions is one that heavily relies on the experience of the product. First of all, the customer needs to find the right size. To help them assess whether the television suits the location the customer has in mind, we have built an in-app augmented reality functionality. With it, a customer can virtually place televisions in their home to assess what size would fit best.
Integrating online and offline
In addition to the size of a television, the customer also needs to determine what image quality they want. To this end, we offer an elaborate explanation of the corresponding technical acronyms on our website. Still, we understand that the customer might prefer to assess the image quality with their own eyes, which they can do in our stores.
Through our website, the customer can schedule an appointment with our television experts, who are trained to help them choose the right size and image quality. These experts also explain which peripheral equipment, such as a soundbar or wall mount, would allow the customer to enjoy their television even more. Once the customer has chosen the best television for them, we deliver and install the television through our 1-man delivery and installation service. Along with any peripheral equipment, of course.
The most customer-centric product journey for laptops
A customer usually starts browsing for a new laptop when their current laptop is becoming slower. Understanding what specifications best meet their needs often requires expert knowledge. And even with a thorough understanding of the options and specifications, it still is not always clear which laptop best suits the customer’s specific needs.
Data-driven laptop configurations
To ensure that the customer can find the best laptop for their needs, we have specialized product managers who analyze customer feedback every day to determine what customers really want and need. Based on their findings, we design and offer built-to-order laptops for every use case, such as gaming, video editing, or text editing. These laptops are sold exclusively at Coolblue and, like all laptops in our assortment, come with free antivirus software. The best laptops per use case can easily be found, thanks to the “Coolblue’s Choice” label.
Bike delivery network
Once the customer has found their laptop, they can choose whether they want to pick it up at our stores or have it delivered to their home during a specified time slot. In and around major cities, we deliver them with our own environmentally friendly bike delivery service. Because of their recognizable color and design, these bikes improve our visibility. The orders they deliver are packed in paper shipping bags, which require significantly less cardboard. Additionally, they allow us to transport more orders with a single bike.
LEADING CUSTOMER JOURNEYS
We have a diversified sales portfolio, but we do not sell everything. We offer leading customer journeys for over 1,100 product categories. Because we are not a platform for third parties, we can focus on and guarantee quality throughout the entire customer journey. We see that this approach works, as we consistently achieve a high NPS and EBITDA in all of our markets.
Creating leading customer journeys starts with building an integrated online offering. To support this offering, we have our own technology and software development in addition to our own physical infrastructure.
In-house technology and software development
With over 330 developers, working in small dedicated multidisciplinary development teams, we aim to make our customer journeys a little bit better every day. We leverage third-party knowledge and solutions when suited, but develop applications internally to gain competitive advantages. By improving and expanding the software and technology we have built in-house, we are able to continuously test and optimize every part of the product journey. This allows us to fully customize it to our and the customer’s needs.
Because we own and operate our solar-powered warehouse ourselves, we are able to continuously improve our NPS and EBITDA. Our stock levels and purchasing strategy ensure ample availability of our assortment and we treat every order with the utmost care.
Our warehouse processes are optimized for 3 main product categories: white goods, XL products, and parcel products. Each category requires different ways to pick, pack, and store from arrival in our warehouse until the product is shipped to the customer. In 2021, we implemented an automated inbound, storage, and order-picking solution, which can handle up to 75% of the parcel volume automatically. Parcel products are packed to size by our packing machines.
Integrated delivery network
We achieve a high NPS by constantly delivering on our promises and improving it a little bit every day. From our central warehouse, we ship to our own hubs, stores, and customers. Shipment to our customers is done by CoolblueDelivers, CoolblueBikes, and our delivery partners. This includes guaranteed next-day delivery 7 days a week and a high first time right. Because we fully control each step of the logistical process, we can optimize cost to serve throughout our entire supply chain; from incoming goods to storage and delivery.
More than just a website
Our website provides detailed information about all of our products and is constantly optimized to help the customer find the best product for them. But Coolblue is more than just a website. We enhance the customer journey with our app, expert advice from our customer service employees, and the benefits of physical touchpoints.
With the Coolblue App, we fulfill unique customer needs through functionalities like augmented reality, checking your phone's compatibility with the phone case in your shopping cart, or assessing whether your WiFi signal meets the minimum requirements for certain products.
Our in-house, multilingual customer service assists customers in various stages of the customer journey. It can easily be reached 7 days a week until midnight via phone, email, social media, and directly on the website. Customer contact is registered in our self-built tool Cassie. By reporting on customer contact reasons, we are able to optimize the customer journey at an earlier stage. This way, we reduce the customers' need to contact our customer service, which contributes to a higher NPS.
Specialist customer service teams
Coolblue has specialist customer service teams that consist of experts who either specialize in a specific product type, like washing machines, or a specific stage of the product journey, such as payments. On top of expert advice, these specialist customer service teams offer an improved customer experience, prevent unnecessary returns, reduce customer effort, and lower operational costs overall.
Our website, app, and customer service are there to best serve our customers. Still, we see that for some of our journeys, something extra is needed. That is why we have an expanding network of strategically located stores. Customers visit our stores to try and experience the products and get advice from an expert to help them choose the product that best suits their needs. This advice is also available on appointment. Our in-store experts can provide assistance with the use of a product, repair broken products, and help with returns.
App integration in stores
Even in our stores, we want customers to fully enjoy the benefits of our online offering. We have created an in-store mode for our app, which notices when a customer enters our store. If they have an appointment, it notifies our queueing system automatically, so they do not have to wait in line. With the in-store mode, the customer can easily scan the QR code or NFC tag next to products. This way, they have all the information we have available right at their fingertips.
Customer needs are for the most part universal. This means that we can apply our integrated and scalable approach in building leading customer journeys in multiple directions. Next to the growth we can still achieve in the Netherlands and Belgium, we see 3 clear directions for growth: geographical expansion, new customer segments, and new business propositions.
In 2020, we made our first delivery in Germany. It was a logical choice to expand to after Belgium, because Germany is close to the Netherlands, both geographically and culturally. With 83 million inhabitants, the addressable market is huge, and the lagging online penetration compared to the Dutch market, provides strong potential for the future. With a proven playbook taken from our Belgian expansion, Coolblue is well-positioned in the competitive market and first results show that German customers love the Coolblue proposition.
Step-by-step metropolitan approach
The first step in this approach is building high NPS, which we achieve by delivering on our promise. We currently deliver products in North Rhine-Westphalia with our delivery vans and delivery bikes. Through our external partner DHL, we offer delivery of parcel-sized products throughout the whole of Germany.
Step 2 is opening stores to increase brand exposure. On 19 November 2021, we opened our first flagship store in Kö-Bogen II, Dusseldorf. Not only does it serve as a physical touchpoint for customers to experience our products, but it also acts as a hub for our delivery bikes. These distinguishable blue bikes further contribute to our visibility in the direct area.
The last step consists of above-the-line marketing to amplify our story and become more top of mind for customers.
Throughout 2021, we have seen rapid growth in our German revenue, which grew to € 94 million.
When Coolblue was founded in 1999, it was mainly a consumer brand. Over the years, we gradually expanded towards the business market by leveraging on our leading customer journeys created for consumers. In 2020, our growth was further accelerated by the shift to working from home. With our Home Office Stores, we created a scalable solution that continues to show strong growth potential.
Home Office Stores
In 2020, we introduced our Home Office Stores to help employers adapt to the new situation of remote and hybrid working. Home Office Stores are tailor-made Coolblue storefronts, for which the employer can determine the amount of shopping credit and the assortment they offer their employees, ranging from sit-stand desks to headsets. After the employee has chosen the best setup for them, we deliver and install the products when desired. In 2021, we developed 158 of these stores for Dutch and Belgian employers. In addition, these personalized storefronts perfectly lend themselves to other needs of employers as well, such as Choose Your Own Device.
In 2021, Dutch households were faced with a considerable increase in their monthly energy bill. Unsurprisingly, they started looking for ways to save energy. This was reflected in the sales of our solar panels, which literally went through the roof. It was also reflected in how customers used our website. For instance, energy consumption became one of the best-used filters on our white goods pages.
Energy-efficient household appliances can significantly lower energy consumption and, as such, a customer’s energy bill. A modern dryer, for example, can help customers save up to € 150 a year in energy costs. As the largest consumer electronics retailer in the Netherlands, well-known for our product expertise, we are perfectly positioned to help our customers save energy. Which is why in 2021, we launched Coolblue Energy: the energy company for anyone who wants to save energy. We provide green energy, advice on how to save energy, and a substantial discount on energy-saving products in our assortment, such as solar panels, charging stations, household appliances, and smart plugs.
Our first acquisition
To make the launch of Coolblue Energy possible, we acquired ServiceHouse, a fully-licensed energy and mobility company, in 2021. This acquisition has allowed us to launch our own energy label and enabled us to introduce the Coolblue Charge Card for electrical vehicles. Customers can use this card at over 150,000 charging stations throughout Europe. More than anything, this acquisition provided us with the in-house developed software platform to combine all our energy propositions in a single, integrated customer journey.
These are our core values. They describe who we are, what we represent, what unites us, and how we interact. Our core values define our culture and help us make choices for the future. We use these values for every decision, no matter how small, to see if it would suit us or not.
We are proud of our real, unconventional Coolbluers. That is why they appear on our websites and in our commercials, just the way they are.
Being unconventional means that Coolbluers can and dare to be themselves, regardless of whether they are outgoing or a little more quiet. Although this may sound contradictory, it is precisely this unconventionality that unites us.
We are all doing this for the first time. We might not have all the answers right away, but we will surely try. Because only by doing what no one has done before can we be truly unconventional.
People who are true to themselves are hard to copy. That is why we always ask ourselves with everything we create whether it really suits us. If we were to cover our logo and the remainder cannot be recognized as Coolblue, it needs to be more unconventional.
There are few companies where so many colleagues are friends as well. Friendship is our strength because together, we know more, we can achieve more, and we have more fun.
People take notice. Such as our customers, who happily visit us again and our suppliers, who view us as long-term partners. We are always honest and direct, even if it is difficult at times. We keep our promises and we are open to feedback.
Friendship can only prosper between equals. That is why ties are the least-common item worn at Coolblue, why Coolbluers honestly speak their minds, and why we are always honest, direct, and open to our customers.
Go for it
Our no-nonsense, entrepreneurial attitude can be phrased in many ways. Less talk, more action. Actions speak louder than words. At Coolblue, we simply refer to this attitude as go for it.
An idea only becomes valuable when given a follow-up. We got to where we are now by preferring immediate action over endless discussions and by doing things a little bit better every day. We improve step by step and detail after detail. Not everything works the first time around, but we take the risk and go for it. We make mistakes and learn from them.
We are constantly changing, either because we can or because we have to. Coolblue has had a flexible structure from the start to support our rapid growth. ‘This is how we have always done it’ is never a valid reason for us.
Our flexibility shows in our Coolbluers who do not mind working with a sudden change of plans or team. It also shows in Coolbluers who continue to learn outside of their own expertise. And lastly, our flexibility is reflected by the systems we build that can handle twice the expected load.
Flexibility is also key in our obsessive focus on customer satisfaction. We gladly go the extra mile for our customers and are convinced that exceptions exist to be made. ‘Just because’ is also a valid reason to us.
The words simply amaze appear to be contradictory, but describe exactly who we are as Coolblue: both unconventional and down-to-earth.
The term simply speaks volumes. We have simply built a straightforward website where customers can quickly and easily place an order. We then simply package that order in a bag or box and simply ship it to our customers. For free, of course.
Amaze means that we need to exceed expectations and that we need to go the extra mile to surprise our customers, to make them smile. A smile might be a common gesture, but it often requires something amazing.