How to stand out in an extremely competitive market

Pernille Maria Bro is country manager for Coolstuff Denmark. Her job includes every single marketing aspect of the Danish market. Before she got the job as Country Manager, Pernille was a part of the customer service team, which means she has a greater understanding of the customers’ needs and how to handle customer’s eventual problems.

Coolstuff is a part of Coolstuff in Sweden, and we have 5 online stores all together. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. We have around 30 employees but around Christmas time the number of employees grows to approximately 130 — to handle the busy christmas shopping. Last year the revenue was around 100 million all together.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

What is your ecommerce setup like?

All 5 country departments are based here in Malmö. This means we get all orders here as well, so when we get an order, we have a system sorting out what country it is coming from.

It works really well. Same thing applies to our customer service department. Everyone sit together in the same call center, and most of them know all languages except Finnish, as Finnish is a bit tricky. Danes call the danish number, Swedes the Swedish number — but all calls are coming through to the same location.

What is your technical set up like?

Our shop system is custom built by our IT department. We have just bought an economy system, Microsoft Navi Pro, as our original one could not handle the increasing amount of data. There are both pros and cons to our custom built shop system. It is an advantage that it is customized to suit our needs. However, when we want changes done to the site, the IT department has to find the time to do so — we cannot outsource it.

We have just bought an economy system, Microsoft Navi Pro, as our original one could not handle the increasing amount of data.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

What happens when you get a new order?

First of all it enters our home built CMS system, where we handle all the visuals, from there it goes to our customer system, where the stock handling and customer service is being handled.

If there is a back order (which should not happen, because if a product is out of stock, it can’t be ordered, but it may happen) it will pop up on a list to customer service. If a customer has ordered three items, and one of them is out of stock, the process is automated.

The stock will send the rest of the items anyways with a discount code and a note saying sorry for the mistake. If the customer has only ordered one item, as mentioned it will pop up on the list in our customer service department, and they will handle it, contact the customer and apologize for the mistake.

The intention is to automate the process completely, but the system is still new to us. However, when it isn’t automated entirely we get a greater insight of what is really happening stock and order wise. We are able to monitor the amount of customers on the waiting list and so on. When we receive new products, the stock will list the new items in the sytem. This ensures the customer has the option to be put on a waiting list. They will then be notified when the new products are in and asked if they want to buy them. Our new system has only been running for six months.

The intention is to automate the process completely, but the system is still new to us. However, when it isn’t automated entirely we get a greater insight of what is really happening stock and order wise. We are able to monitor the amount of customers on the waiting list and so on.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

The process from stock to buyer is automated. When we get new products, there’s a template, where you just have to fill in the text and upload it to the site. Besides that, the mails to our customers are automated — when the order is being packed, shipped and during shipping.

Everything else is personal and manual labour. When being just one person, like me, you want to automate more, but on the other hand we don’t want to lose touch with the customers.

What online tools do you use?

Opensiteexplorer for bloggers and competitor analysis
Adwords Keyword Planner for product names and keywords
Adwords Editor for managing ad campaigns
Übersuggest for search inspiration
Hootsuite for social media management
Optimizely for A/B testing

What is your most important marketing channel?

The most important marketing channel to us is definitely our Adwords marketing and our affiliate marketing. These two work really well for us. We have a keen focus on these, even though most of the processes are automated. We put a lot of effort into social medias, campaigns and so on as well — it is a part of our branding strategy. We are very active, and try to answer everyone as fast as possible — and it has to be fun too!

We upload our Adwords advertising manually, but most of it is streamlined and not very time demanding. But this is where we should invest more time, as it really bears fruit.

We put a lot of effort into social medias, campaigns and so on — it is a part of our branding strategy. We are very active, and try to answer everyone as fast as possible — and it has to be fun too!
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

To you, what is the hardest media to achieve a good ROI?

The trickiest marketing channel to us is cooperating with bloggers. In Denmark we have had a hard time making the cooperation with bloggers work and it hasn’t really resulted in a good ROI.

I think it has something to do with the products. Most bloggers in Denmark are all about fashion and make-up. However, we have worked really well with Elektronista [Editors note: Elektronista is a danish blog about tech, digital trends and news]. In countries such as Sweden and Germany blogs are fantastic, but it’s harder here in Denmark.

Bloggers — Why is it hard?

We try to spend a lot more time on blogging, as we see a great deal of potential. In other countries the bloggers are more willing to receive a product and write about it.

In Denmark the bloggers tend to want products or money — they want to get paid a lot more. I think the difference lies with the size of the population. Denmark does have a lot of bloggers, but it is about the mentality. We have tried to cooperate with fashion bloggers, but it just doesn’t end up very well, when a fashionista blogs about a popcorn machine. There’s basically a lack of gadget blogs worth spending money on.

We have tried to cooperate with fashion bloggers, but it just doesn’t end up very well, when a fashionista blogs about a popcorn machine.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

What is the difference between your countries?

We always mention Germany as an example to a market completely different from ours. To them, it is essential to have all the safe ecommerce certificates, because it is really important to the German population. Besides that, the price competition is cut-throat because of shops like Amazon.

Normally the prices are similar, Denmark and Sweden in between, but the prices in Germany are more based on the market. Social media is not that important in Germany compared to Sweden, where it is the most effective channel. However, the organic traffic is absolutely fantastic compared to other countries. It is hard to find out exactly why.

Finland is the newest market to us, and therefore the smallest as well. They are a bit more non-committal towards new items. We really want the newest, craziest and most innovative gadgets, which they take quite a lot of time to accept.

When talking online marketing — where do you put your future efforts?

In the future we will put a lot of dedicated effort into personalised newsletters. We will try to segment the newsletters based on their latest buy. If they have bought Star Wars gadgets, they should receive a Star Wars themed newsletter. This isn’t really innovative, but we are a bit behind on that parameter. Today we do not segment, everyone gets the same newsletter — and this is entirely because of technical difficulties.

We will try to segment the newsletters based on their latest buy. If they have bought Star Wars gadgets, they should receive a Star Wars themed newsletter. This isn’t really innovative, but we are a bit behind on that parameter.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

We are going to lance the boil regarding blogs and PR — we just really need to get started, as we feel it will be an important and successful channel to us. The reason we haven’t got started wholeheartedly just yet is because there is only one country manager per country, which means there is plenty of things and tasks I need to stay on top of. It is both exciting and challenging.

What do you outsource?

We try not to outsource. Or at least as little as possible. We are happy to keep as much as possible in-house. This gives us a better feeling with everything. It is easy to go and ask people in other departments, customer service can check out the products in stock and so on.

At one time we outsourced our Adwords handling, but that is back in-house again. We felt like we knew more about our ads and what works better for us. Copywriting and photography are in-house as well. Logistics is naturally outsourced. If we do anything in the direction of outsourcing, it is partnerships.

We have recently had a partnership with Conversion Rate Experts. We buy advising not action. They teach us how to do certain things, enabling us to do it ourselves in the future. They helped us with the A/B tests, as they have been challenging for us. They helped us with a number of things, but always with the input from our own people.

We buy advising not action. They teach us how to do certain things, enabling us to do it ourselves in the future.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

Where do you get your inspiration from?

We get our inspiration from our favourite competitors so to speak. Nordic Ecommerce awarded the Best Ecommerce Customer Experience recently, where CDON won, so we have had a closer look, what they do and what works for them. (We came in third) British firebox.uk are excellent as well, they are our favourite.

Besides that we attend marketing conferences in London and other countries. In spring we attended the SMX conference. Our buyers go to cool places such as Las Vegas to attend gadget conferences.

What is the coolest function you have implemented this year?

The coolest thing — we are working on it right now — is a complete halloween-themed subsite. It’s gadgets, costumes and so on. There is a lot at stake!

This is a part of a larger strategy, which means we will keep close track of the interest and so on, knowing where to go from there. In 2016 we will launch a .com domain, which will be for UK residents, but it will ship worldwide. We are going all in on world domination!

What is the most stupid thing you have done this year

The worst or stupidest thing we have done this year, would have to be the fact, that we shut down our chat function due to a lack of resources. I think our customer experience could really benefit from the chat function, as it adds an entirely different dimension to it. It is such a shame, but we do not have the resources to keep it open.

Before going on holiday I had done some Adwords testing, pushing our budgets up a bit, thinking it would kick start the sales.

I then happily went on holiday without thinking to end the tests. The holiday then ended — as they do — and imagine what I came back to! Loads of work for me. Safe to say I did not feel all that intelligent, when I realized. Probably should have stopped the tests before leaving.

Is there any competition between the country managers?

The country managers are based together in an open office space. This means there are great opportunities to share experiences and we can use each other as sparring partners. We have weekly meetings, discussing each other’s successes and what didn’t work as well. Around Christmas time we have monitors with Google Earth, showing us where we get the orders in from, to keep the Christmas sales spirit. Christmas is really tough, so we do something extra to give a morality boost — and surely this adds to the competition as well.

We have weekly meetings with the IT department, the buyers and so forth, making sure everything is streamlined. Generally everything and everyone is updated. We use Google Spreadsheets to share ideas with each others.

Our KPI’s are flowing — with exceptions. The marketing budget is set at 10% of the total turnover. That stays the same. We try to keep an overall goal, but we really focus on the campaigns. How much did we spend on the campaign, and how much did we make — what is the profit? Because of our small size, the KPI’s are changeable. I have personal targets throughout the year.

Around Christmas time we have monitors with Google Earth, showing us where we get the orders in from, to keep the Christmas sales spirit. Christmas is really tough, so we do something extra to give a morality boost.
Pernille Bro, Country Manager, Coolstuff

What’s the best Ecommerce advice you have received?

The best ecommerce advice I have ever received, was from Patrick Rasmussen; test test test — do not be afraid of making mistakes. You have to test a blogger, a function, an ad or whatever to know if it works. Take the risk. Really: test!

What is your best ecommerce hacks/tips?

The best hack or tip is not to lose touch with customers. Personal contact is essential. If you are present on Facebook, answer the customer’s questions immediately, be present and stay within reach. It’s all about the personal touch. This is a part of our core values: We differ from the giants such as eBay and so forth on our personal contact and our presence.

The secret to successful affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing can be a tricky thing to master, but it seems Pernille Bro and Coolstuff have found the golden way to success when it comes to cooperating with bloggers. There are a lot of things you need to bear in mind if you want affiliate marketing to work. We have been very lucky, as Pernille has shared her very best affiliate marketing tricks — and believe us, you don’t want to miss them as they are both original and easy to execute. This is your chance to get the hang of affiliate marketing

This interview was originally published on the Sleeknote Blog.