Global shutdowns in 2020 forced businesses across the world to rethink the way they do business. For international outdoor gear manufacturer Bollé Brands, that meant diving headfirst into digitalization. Bollé Brands’ Global Digital Director Damien Hars and his team were tasked with launching the company’s first direct-to-consumer (D2C) website on a timeline that most would find impossible — but they rose to the challenge and launched a successful website in just six months. Here’s his story.
In the age of the connected consumer, being able to reach your customers across digital channels is critically important. As a leading brand in the eyewear and sporting industry, I joined Bollé Brands in March 2020 to continue our efforts to build and execute a digital strategy. As the sporting industry has evolved and consumers’ preferences have changed, we realized in order to continue to deliver on our history of product innovation we needed to find ways to more directly engage with customers.
At Bollé Brands most of our digital initiatives were driven by our external partners and external agencies. While this helped us achieve our goals at the time, we recognized that in order to compete in an all digital world we needed to go faster. I was hired to create greater agility and speed so we could respond better to customers and the market.
Accelerated Transformation: From 2 Years to 6 months
After just a few weeks into my new job, the COVID-19 pandemic sent our entire company into lockdown. We had to examine our priorities and identify where we needed to focus our efforts.
Reaching customers safely meant the overall digitalization of the company went straight to the top of the list with an incredibly accelerated timeline. Most urgent? Our brands had never been available on a direct-to-consumer commerce platform. We had to build a D2C platform quickly because customers could not go to their regular retailers to find our products during global lockdowns.
I had figured I had about two years to lead a complete digital transformation. What I planned to do in two years I ended up doing in about six months. Here are four lessons I learned that I hope can help you make your own digital transformation effort a success.
Lesson 1: Speed means being agile, and making critical decisions every day
Delivering fast is critical to our business, and as a result of the tight timelines was critical to our success. Fortunately, I had past experience to draw from having worked on a similar transformation. To move fast you have to adopt an agile mindset.
Because our customers couldn’t access our products with stores closed due to the pandemic, we needed a platform to sell to engage and get in front of them. No stores? No D2C commerce website? No sales.
This made our path forward pretty clear: build a solid website without spending too much time on the details, very much embracing the “Minimum Viable Product” mindset endemic to the agile methodology. To go fast we made a rule: we would make critical decisions quickly every single day. For example, we built the design of the Bollé Brands homepage in one day — and that was after establishing the global and technical architecture of the site in just four days.
I’ve found that when making critical decisions, if you spend too much time on those decisions, you can lose sight of your target. The idea was to go very fast knowing that we could improve the website further down the road. The most crucial thing was to go live as soon as possible and that took quick and confident decision making.
Lesson 2: Prioritize listening to your customers
As a brand with global reach, customers have to be at the center of everything that we do. Specifically, we needed to listen to our customers, and understand their feedback, interests and concerns . To do this, we listen to our networks, our social media community, and our customer base as much as we can. But listening without taking action doesn’t make sense. So we need to make sure this feedback gets routed to the right person at our company so they can act.
One of those first critical decisions we made was to launch a customer service tool at the same time as our new D2C website — one that connected seamlessly to our commerce platform. It would have been impossible and frankly irresponsible to launch our ecommerce website with just two people working on the website and one community manager.
Finding connected tools isn’t just about convenience on our side. The right tools for us needed to be natively connected in order to provide a better customer experience. That way, our agents can recognize customers and help as they’re shopping in real time. Because Salesforce Commerce Cloud was integral in the launch of the website itself, we chose Salesforce Service Cloud to help us meet our own high standards of customer service. It felt safe because we knew that all order requests and all the data coming from customers would be gathered into one single tool.
Lesson 3: Build small and use feedback to scale
Because we had to go fast to get something to our customers, we started with a very simple website. While it had important information, we know there would be some bells and whistles missing in the early iterations, such as only the foundational elements of a product detail page, or limited localization of languages. But, by starting small, we were able to set the stage for later improvements and growth.
Additionally, we decided to launch the site with a very simple product page and give customers a way to share feedback. By launching customer support along with the website, we started getting this valuable feedback after only a couple days. The customer service team had requests for information that customers felt was missing on our product detail page, such as a fit guide, for instance, or missing information like the weight or size of the products.
Ultimately, this feedback became the next iterations of the website. We were able to prioritize building out these pages as our next step. Providing the right information on the product detail pages sounds like a no-brainer, but when you start from scratch and have to move very quickly, not everything can get done in the first round. What’s important is the agile mindset, which allowed us to launch quickly, take in customer feedback, and make improvements over time.
Lesson 4: Don’t reinvent the wheel: Leverage technology best practices and experts to accelerate time to value
One of our biggest takeaways from this project is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you can take out of the box technologies, features, and plugins — especially those allowing you to build with clicks not code — just do it! Our value is in creating demand for our products, not reinventing technological features. Take what’s available in the field and play with it to make it work for you.
We also brought in Salesforce Professional Services experts to help with the entire process and planning for the future. This let us hear from the best in the business on how to use these new tools to get our site up and running fast. The Salesforce team had a very valuable perspective that helped us set priorities based on our goals, and guide us at critical moments to achieve those goals.
The past year has brought a lot of unexpected challenges, and there were plenty of moments of uncertainty. Despite this, our focus on serving our customers allowed us to build internal digital skill sets, launch a D2C ecommerce platform and build an organizational muscle of speed and agility. While the future continues to evolve, we know that by staying close to our customers, making agile decisions, and using technology, we’ll be well positioned to handle whatever comes our way.
Bollé Brands is a sporting goods company located near Lyons, France, that encompasses the brands Bollé, Spyoptic, and Serengeti. Damien Hars is an experienced global leader in marketing and e-commerce, currently in charge of developing Bollé Brands’ digital strategy, driving innovation to become one of the world’s leading eyewear and head protection companies as the household name in eyewear and winter sports. Prior to joining Bollé Brands, Damien led digital marketing and e-commerce technology for Rossignol, a global force in winter sports equipment and apparel.
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