Van den Assem was founded in 1910, which puts them in a list of the oldest retail chains in the Netherlands - still being run by the same family. In this case study you will learn how this organization extends their premium shopping experience to the online store and how parcel delivery plays a role in their success.
Van den Assem goes way back before the era of content, clicks and conversions. In 1910, Lambertus van den Assem opened his first shoe retail store in his hometown Rotterdam. Since the opening at the beginning of the century, Van den Assem has grown into a retail chain with 21 locations in the Netherlands and are well known nationwide.
As if its existence of over 100 years is not spectacular enough, the family Van den Assem has also been running the company since its establishment. The family business has been run for 20 years by the brothers Berry and Leo van den Assem. In the history of its existence, these 20 years have been the most challenging for the family business….
Berry and Leo took over the reigns of the company in the late 90s and it coincided with the shift in the retail world: the advent of the Internet. Starting out, the brothers steered clear of the Internet and remained its course and held onto its foundation as an offline retailer. This changed in 2008 when the majority of adult Dutch women were captivated by the Australian boots with its woolen linings: the UGGs.
Encouraged by the growing popularity of the UGG brand, the procurement team carefully made a suggestion to sell them online. The idea was to have an acquaintance of the family set up the webshop. The brothers agreed and it immediately lead to tremendous results. The enormous success of the webshop took everybody at Van den Assem by surprise. Since that moment, e-commerce became a new pillar of growth for the organization.
Our customers want choose delivery options that cater to their need and it is our job to make sure that those options are available.
In 2012, Theo Sengers was appointed as Managing Director and has been responsible for managing the company’s growth. Sengers focused on setting up the operations and processes needed to become a successful omnichannel retailer. Shortly, Online Marketeer Dominique Brouwer came on board for the optimization of all online activities. We sat down with them at their headquarters, which is a stone’s throw away from Rotterdam. Their elegant office has the same look and feel as their luxurious decorated retail stores.
An item that was highly ranked on the Managing Director’s first wish list was to align the premium service in the retail stores with the webshop, which naturally also includes delivery options. Parcel collection points, time frames, same-day delivery: all delivery options should be available for our customers. Sengers explains: “Our type of customers are used to receiving the best services wherever they go: in stores and in restaurants.
Our customers want to choose delivery options that suit them best and it is our job to make sure that all those options are available.” The Managing Director admits that this was easier said than done. The main hurdles to integrating these delivery options were time and money. “Our webshop runs on our own platform. To design, develop and integrate all those delivery options in-house would take up too many resources.”
By implementing the Paazl software we could check off the boxes on our wish list regarding delivery options.
If you buy a pair of shoes for 700 euros, you would expect the best delivery service with all the options you would want. We want to be able to offer them all.
This is where Paazl proves to be a valuable partner for the shoe retailer. The Paazl Perfect interface is used in the front-end. Behind the scenes, the Paazl software is connected to the self-developed CMS platform and with ACA’s ERP system. After the integration, it did not take long for Van den Assem to offer various delivery options to their customers. Brouwer noticed the results in their data: “When the option was available we saw many customers opting for delivery to collection points or choosing evening delivery. Why didn’t we do this sooner? Apparently, there was a need for it.”
With the Paazl integration, there was another popular delivery option: in-store pickup. This is a clear signal that having a combination of brick and mortar stores and online stores works really well together. Sengers has developed an omnichannel philosophy: “On a frequent basis, we see customers coming into our stores where they already have chosen their favorite pair of shoes on their phones. The first thing you do when you are in a store is checking if the online price is the same. As a retailer, we have to take these touch points into consideration.”
E-commerce does not have to be a threat to offline retail. This is a common understanding among retailers. Nonetheless, Van den Assem was surprised after it opened its newest location in Amsterdam. Brouwer shares, “It is great to see that our online traffic grew in the region where we have opened our new store.”
Order online, try on the merchandise and send it back afterward. Unfortunately, there are always cases of returns in the e-commerce world of fashion. Also in this area Van den Assem holds premium service in high regard. In perfect alignment with their brand identity, they offer premium services regarding delivery and returns. Using Paazl, they are able to include a returning label to all their parcel documents. This, for example, gives the customer the possibility to easily return shoes that do not fit - at the closest collection point.
Not only is this convenient for the customer, it is also a huge plus for the retailer: stock predictability in their warehouse. Brouwer explains: “In the past, we did not know what and how many items to expect and when items were returned. It was a daily surprise for us to see what came back in our delivery vans. Now, we get an update of every scanned return label and are able to anticipate what and when items are coming back. This is a huge help with the planning of our stock capacity.”
Another added advantage for both customers and employees are the implemented Track & Trace updates. Customers get a status update of the parcel delivery so they know when the item is ready for shipment or when they can pick it up at a collection point. All made possible with the Paazl software. This proactive approach had an immediate impact in the customer support team. According to the Online Marketeer the frequency of questions about what the location is of a parcel is much lower. All these email updates are being sent via the Paazl software but with Van den Assem’s design with its own look and feel. This way the brand identity remains the same in all communication with their customers.
Currently, we can give customers multiple updates using Track & Trace. For example, when an item has been packed and is ready to be shipped. We used to get a lot of questions like ‘where is my parcel?’ - This does not happen often anymore.
I have noticed that my position in negotiations became stronger because with just a few clicks I could just switch to another carrier.
We have been talking about operational advantages in partnering with Paazl. However, there is also another part that Sengers wants to highlight: logistics is a strategic decision. Naturally, as the Managing Director, he has his sights firmly set on the future. He considers Paazl as an important asset to retain his independence on parcel carriers. “We talk with our carriers on a frequent basis to talk about shipping fees. These are large expenses for any webshop. I have noticed that my position in negotiations became stronger because with just a few clicks I could just switch to another carrier.”
When we asked Sengers and Brouwer what lies ahead for Van den Assem, they quickly mentioned their international ambitions. Currently, the frequency of orders coming from abroad is noticeably high while the English website has not even been launched yet. Both Sengers and Brouwer expect an increase in orders coming from other countries and think that the solution Paazl offers will increasingly help them. “There are cultural differences with regards to parcel delivery. For example, in Belgium people prefer to pick up their parcels at delivery points but in France they favor local mail delivery. For each country, we can use Paazl Perfect to configure our delivery options to align with the local delivery preferences.”
In conclusion, Sengers expects a long-term partnership with Paazl: “We prefer to work with specialists in order to improve just one aspect of the business. We will be very strong in this particular aspect. Paazl is continuously developing its product with an entire team. We cannot out-develop them in this area. Especially, if we want to integrate more parcel carriers into our business...”