In March we wrote about the demise of the brick-and-mortar computer store. This was because the last Paradigit store shut down. But other media chains such Expert, MediaMarkt, and EP still have brick-and-mortar locations on the high street. How is that possible? Are they not affected by fierce online competition? And why are they still renting those huge retail properties? Head of Commerce Daniela Sarlo and Online Marketer Michel Willemsen of Expert explain how their company is holding up.
With no fewer than 140 brick-and-mortar locations in the Netherlands, Expert will not be disappearing from the high street any time soon. In fact, its brick-and-mortar stores are still central to its strategy. “It’s all about the local business operator and his customer,” says Daniela Sarlo. “Local business operators know what they’re good at, they know the people in the neighbourhood and know where their needs lie. They use that knowledge to provide a fantastic service. And of course to sell products.”
“When you buy something from Expert, whether it’s online or offline, you end up at the local shop on the corner,” Michel adds. “For busy young families and the elderly, it’s ideal. The local business operator knows your needs and can even drop by to install something or figure out what’s needed to install something.”
A local feeling, both online and offline
Expert therefore mainly focuses on personal attention to the customer. This is also reflected in its online strategy. There should be a synergy between the online and offline (and local) shop. “For example, if you have a question about a product in the product comparison series, it will be answered by the Expert in your area. Our customers really like that and it’s reflected in our sales figures.”
Experiencing a product is also one of the company’s pillars. Customers still visit a store to see, touch, and hear a product before buying. They can also visit their local store for service-related questions or issues.
At the same time though, there’s been a movement from offline to online. Physical folders, for example, are provided with QR codes to search for products online. That, in turn, boosts visitor numbers. “Ultimately, we strive for an effortless and above all reliable customer journey with a low return percentage and so more income from online and offline sales.”
The customer is still key
Of course, it’s utopian to think that online and offline play well together. Sarlo: “There are certainly shifts in turnover, although these figures are currently distorted by Covid. In any event, the fact is we have to slice the pie between online and offline, but we don’t see that leading to the closing of any stores. On the contrary, we expect to focus even more on personal and local service in five years’ time. In our stores. Because before you spend big on a TV, audio system, or washing machine, you want to experience the product and be able to ask questions. We’ll continue to do what we’re good at: online and offline local business. With the personal service of the local Expert at the customer’s home.”
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