elkjop store
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Elkjøp, part of Currys PLC, is the largest consumer electronics retailer in the Nordics, with more than 400 stores across seven Nordic countries (operating under brands including Elkjøp, Elgiganten and Gigantti) and an online presence that dates back to 1997.

Becoming the market-leading electronics retailer has taken a lot of concerted effort and growth – but being on top can also lead a company to become “a bit arrogant”, as Julia Paulsen, Director of Ecommerce Nordics at Elkjøp, explained. “There came a point where the company realised we were way too product-focused …

“Luckily, we understood that in time, and started to think, ‘How can we improve the seamless customer experience? We are an omnichannel player – how are we going to take that to the next level with the customer in the centre?’”

A key question that Elkjøp has confronted with its transformation is: how can an omnichannel retailer not only continually optimise the online experience but build an experience that browsers trust in the same way they do the expertise of a store associate?

Creating a ‘store’ experience online

Stores are one of Elkjøp’s major strengths as a retailer, and its extensive store footprint across Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands drives almost 70% of Elkjøp’s revenue. This is a crucial asset for a technology retailer: as Paulsen explained, “People do like to go to the store – technology is a difficult topic [and] it’s good to get advice, so online, we try to support people to make that choice.”

But what if the online customer experience could rival that of a store? One key to unlocking this is to up the percentage of customers who log in at the beginning of their purchase process. “You can get support, you can get questions answered … You can get help faster, get information about where your parcel is – [all] helpful things to you as a user,” said Paulsen.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to persuade customers to jump through this additional hoop. “It’s not the most inviting thing … If you want to do your journey better, you should log in immediately – but what you want to do is to buy that TV,” Paulsen acknowledges.

Elkjøp has a long-standing partnership with experience optimisation and personalisation specialist Dynamic Yield, whose platform facilitates A/B testing to determine which user experience resonates best with customers. In one test, the Elkjøp team trialled a more prominent login button on the homepage, hoping to increase user logins and also signups to Elkjøp’s Customer Club loyalty scheme.

However, contrary to expectations, customer login clicks and signups both went down: login clicks by around 10%, and signups by 2.6%.

Another test that made the button more prominent on the delivery page successfully increased login clicks by 17% and Customer Club signups by 22%. This type of experience is why Paulsen swears by constant testing – and maintains that there’s no such thing as a ‘failed’ test.

“People ask, ‘What do you do if you have a failed test?’ If you have learned something, it’s not a failed test,” says Paulsen.

“As long as you don’t implement and spend money on something that’s not driving value – and potentially even drives customers away from your business – then it’s a learning.”

Testing the cross-sell

One area of the customer experience that Elkjøp has spent some time refining is the process of purchasing product add-ons – whether they be accessories like a charger or case, or services like home delivery and installation. In-store, a salesperson can simply suggest (or recommend) additional purchases, but online, the user experience must juggle making the purchase frictionless with making it easy to add items that a customer might need.

“Our customers are very smart … everyone will notice if you try to make them do something that they don’t want to, if you try to make them buy something they don’t need,” said Paulsen.

As a result of this, accessories were originally featured unobtrusively, “as if you went to a cashier at the store, and the cashier said, ‘You know what, I don’t want to bother you, but we do have these products that could help you to enjoy your phone more, like a charger – but sorry for mentioning it.’ It was that kind of experience.”

Customers don’t like to be tricked into making unneeded purchases – but they will also expect an item they have ordered to come with everything they need. By testing and iterating based on customer response, Elkjøp developed a toggle for just a couple of accessories that were most relevant to the product, and depending on what the customer selected, they would receive a pop-up suggesting any further items they might want. After the company realised that services – like installation for an appliance – weren’t noticeable enough inside pop-ups, they moved these to the checkout stage.

“It’s about testing and data and understanding what customers actually want … I always challenge my team to think: ‘If that freezer is at the door, and the customer is told, ‘You haven’t ordered installation’ – how would you feel?’” said Paulsen.

She added, “The best part of being an online business is that we have the data – customers actually tell you if you’re good, if you’re bad, and what you need to improve.”

Search, merch, and personalisation

Elkjøp is focused on “search and merch”, or search and merchandising, as its next key area of development. “We’re challenging ourselves on how we can change search from being this dumb [tool] to become a digital sales assistant … Where you can ask: ‘I want to buy a phone for my mother who is 84’.

“…There, I think AI will be very, very helpful,” Paulsen reflected. “There is a lost opportunity to have that trusted advisor online – like we have in the stores.

“If you have a well-operated search that asks the right questions, and helps you narrow down the magnitude of products” – online, Elkjøp has around 200,000 SKUs – “that would be very helpful.”

Personalisation is an ongoing project for Elkjøp, and the retailer is working to use customer data more effectively while also walking the line between a personalised experience and one that might come across as over-familiar. “…you need to find that sweet spot; what data do you have that actually brings customer value? And when you have that nailed down – how relevant should you be?” explained Paulsen.

“…we have to be really careful with personalisation: that we do it in a way that actually adds value. And I really believe that when you add value to customers, you add value to business – it’s that simple.”

“It’s the people that make … technology work”

Digital transformation in retail, Paulsen said, is ultimately about “the small grind that you do day after day and being really passionate about customer data. Understanding what customers want in those clicks; listening to the customer.

“It’s not a journey that starts and ends. You’re in a constant movement – and if you want to beat your competition, and you want to meet your customer expectations, you never stop that journey.”

To that end, she emphasised: “It’s important that retailers stay curious; I have the motto of ‘ABT’ – Always Be Testing. It’s surprising how little retailers do these tests [and] are checking constantly where they can optimise. Retail is really detailed – the margin depends on such small things.”

Paulsen also believes that retailers can afford to share more about what works for them and what doesn’t work with other players in the space.

“In the end, it’s mindset of the team, it’s the people that make this technology work – so it doesn’t hurt to tell [others what solutions we’re using].

“Competitors have a different situation … And it’s how you use them, how you train [people] to use them. It’s not about the tech – it’s about how you make it work for you and bring business value.”

Econsultancy provides training for ecommerce and marketing teams.