This is how Durlinger Shoetime Group tackles omnichannel

Source: retail trends number 2 | February 2019

About three years ago, the family-owned Durlinger Schoenen and Shoetime Retail joined forces to form the Durlinger Shoetime Group (DSG), which, with seventy stores, can call itself the largest shoe retailer in the southeastern Netherlands. With that, two cultures came together, as well as two store formats. Shoetime caters to the lower middle segment: a family store for price-conscious, action-oriented but loyal shoppers. While Durlinger, also a family store, focuses more on the upper middle segment that expects a somewhat higher level of service.

The merger was a response to the rapidly changing retail landscape, with the rise of and rapid changes within online in particular creating challenges for the chains. Briefly, both chains had to close stores, but overhead remained as high as ever. And so the two headquarters were merged, says Michiel Sieben, marketing manager at DSG. “We saw things happening in the market that we didn’t have an immediate answer to,” he acknowledges. “For example, online sales exploded, while it was extremely difficult to find the ideal combination of webshop and physical stores. With the merger, we have sufficient size and knowledge to fully respond to important market developments within of online marketing and omnichannel.”


DSG first did the so-called “go omnichannel scan,” which consulting firm Gwynt developed from the research program Shopping Tomorrow. The outcome helped the shoe chain determine its starting position. Next, they looked at what omnichannel really means. For example, DSG visited the Home of Retail knowledge hub, which is all about applied innovation. Sieben: “We know that the way we do things is going to change. It’s good to feel the urgency and importance of omnichannel.” It additionally helped to make the often somewhat abstract phenomenon tangible, says Roland Mulder who guides DSG from Gwynt. “It makes it clear that it’s about organizing your proposition around the customer, without separate channels. That on one customer account you have the experience connected in all places. Creating one single truth , so to speak.” He also points to the roadmap that was developed, which allowed DSG to get started on its omnichannel ambitions in a pragmatic way.

The knowledge and inspiration gained was taken into one-on-one interviews with the various management members to find out how they think about the future. This in turn provided input for workshops with colleagues from across the organization. “For example, one session was devoted to precisely mapping our customers,” Sieben says. “We described them in detail and developed different personas. That way, even for people who are not on the store floor every day in the future, it is clear who we are doing it for now.” Similar sessions also covered IT infrastructure, branding and the organization itself. All designed to see how DSG is in the market, where change is desired and what is needed to initiate it. Sieben: “We identified the bottlenecks in all areas. And formulated both short-term and long-term projects based on them.”

More conversion

Action items that therefore all come from within the organization and are also implemented independently. A low-key, pragmatic approach, Mulder stressed. Short-term issues include training staff, easing returns or introducing tablets in stores, Sieben outlines. In the longer term, it’s more about things like personalizing customer communications, eliminating silos in the organization and being able to continuously identify customer needs. “We often still want to make the choice for the customer as to how and where he wants to order, whereas he should be left completely free in that. In doing so, we must ensure that all barriers are removed,” he says.

An important topic of management is to clearly communicate the usefulness and necessity to staff. Previously mentioned workshops already contributed to this, but to properly introduce the entire staff to the new reality, a kick-off will be organized this year. This introduction brings together aptly named keynotes, workshops and festivities in a relaxed manner. “We want to reinforce the positive feeling that is already there,” Sieben said. Mulder: “We don’t know exactly where we will end up, but invite people to join us. Branch managers have an important role in this. Just like the management has to be on the soapbox every week. The important thing is to make the lines of communication short. This is not a subject to communicate via-via.”

Despite DSG’s relatively short time with omnichannel, concrete results have already been achieved. For example, Sieben reports that delivery time has been shortened and it is possible to pay in arrears. Partly because of this, the webshop has grown considerably in recent times. Conversion was up 15 percent from 2017. The easy steps have been taken, he says in fairness. That gives room to take on new, more challenging issues. “Think about recording customer data better so we can further personalize communications. And bringing our people into it that there shouldn’t be any barriers in the buying process.” For the company, it has acted as an eye opener, the marketing man concludes. “For years we have been used to working in a certain way and in the process you may lose sight of the customer a bit. Omnichannel forces us to go back to basics and think from the customer’s point of view. Things like technological applications and faster delivery time are just an elaboration of that.”