Building a booming online shopping experience during COVID-19

In March, all non-essential stores in Belgium suddenly closed. A new era was dawning for online stores, as they saw their numbers booming. Unexpected and for some of them unprepared: lots of orders, but also lots of online questions. That’s also what happened at Odette Lunettes, the Belgian eyewear brand by Eline De Munck and Bob Geraets, who offer an online store in addition to their physical points of sale. During this rush to answer questions, they were able to rely on Sparkcentral: a unique, Belgian platform that turned this pandemic into an opportunity.

CEOs Bob Geraets and Eline de Munck of Odette Lunettes and Christoph Neut of Sparkcentral are now sharing their view about the world today. How can we make a connection with our customers again? And how do we reinvent ourselves to survive?

We’re waking up a new, ‘corona-proof’ world. What does that mean to you?

At Odette Lunettes, customers always come first. And especially now, during this pandemic, it’s a lot harder! Buying your glasses online is far from easy. That’s why we’re glad that social media and messaging were already a big part of our marketing strategy. While for a lot of companies it’s just a nice-to-have, I think it’s actually crucial to make an impact.

The uniqueness of a crisis, like this current pandemic, is its unpredictability. Every company has to reinvent itself and no one can predict what will work best. For Sparkcentral, creating a personal connection with customers via digital channels has been key for years. We’ve been noticing for a while now that customers, and definitely younger generations of customers, prefer to send messages rather than, for example, call. And certainly now, with the digital aspect playing an even more important role, we’ve noticed that this is exactly where companies can make a difference today.

Two Belgian companies with international ambitions and a similar vision, it’s a perfect match! How did you find each other?

When it comes to customer approach, our visions are indeed a perfect match. Odette Lunettes puts customers first, and preferable in a contemporary way. And that’s exactly what we could help them with. We immediately noticed that social media channels were crucial in their approach because of their target group. And by adding WhatsApp as a channel on top, communication is now spinning in greased grooves.

What exactly does Sparkcentral do for Odette Lunettes?

In a nutshell? Sparkcentral is a platform where all of our messages from different channels can easily come together. All our messages from WhatsApp, Social Media or even online webforms come together in one single inbox in which we can work together as a team.

We can communicate with our (potential) customers at any time, whether it’s a comment from Facebook Ad or a medical question about an eye test on our website. Every single message addressed to us comes in and we never miss an opportunity to interact with our customers on a personal level. It also comes in handy in our logistics process. It allows us to communicate via WhatsApp about our order and delivery process.

What makes the approach of Odette Lunettes and Sparkcentral unique?

It’s unique because we develop a complete customer journey with different digital touchpoints for our customers, such as Odette Lunettes. From the first moment a customer sees a marketing campaign to the point where they reach out for customer support. Each phase has key moments that are important for their customer experience. And Odette Lunettes uses every moment, reactively and proactively. And that’s what makes them true pioneers in Belgium in the field of customer service.

“I advise brands to think about the different digital touchpoints they have. By improving every digital connection with your customer, you’ll provide excellent customer service.”

Eline De Munck – CEO at Odette Lunettes

What should retail companies do to stay competitive?

I believe many retail and e-commerce companies still have room to grow, especially when it comes to digital customer experiences. A good online experience is crucial: think about a positive word of mouth and return buyers.

What we’ve seen is that companies that already have a good online customer experience are growing even more during this pandemic. And that’s also the strength of Odette Lunettes in my opinion. Companies without a digital focus are experiencing less growth today. I think that’s a clear sign to invest in a sustainable online relationship with your customer.

I would advise brands to look for the different touch points they have with customers today. I can imagine that these are quite different today than before COVID-19. We’ve noticed the same thing at Odette Lunettes. We used to advise people mainly in the store, but now we switch to selling glasses online as well. It’s a major change in their customer experience, and we still need to grow and adapt every day.

“Customers will always choose the path that involves the least amount of effort. And the better and more effortless the experience becomes, the more we‘ll continue to shop online.”

Christoph Neut – CEO at Sparkcentral

Can we conclude that online shopping is here to stay?

E-commerce companies were already growing before COVID-19 hit, but at a slower pace then they are right now. During the pandemic, they immediately had to take things up a notch. I definitely feel that a large number of online shoppers are here to stay. Customers always choose the path that involves the least amount of effort. And the better and more effortless the experience becomes, the more we’ll continue to shop online.

I fully agree with Christoph on this. This pandemic definitely challenged us to do things differently, and if it works well, it will certainly continue to exist.