How geo-location transformed ERIK’S operational efficiency
There’s something unique about buying a bike, especially when purchasing a high-end one. Customers definitely do not behave the same as when purchasing ordinary day-to-day items, like t-shirts or pet food. They want to understand which model would perfectly fit their size and expectations by taking a look at it and trying the product in person.
ERIK’S Bike, Board & Ski, a leading sports equipment retailer in the US, has seen their customer support request and order volume reach new heights during the pandemic outbreak in early 2020. Once the physical experience was limited, shoppers relied on the website to guide them through the needs and must-haves of their next outdoor sporting experience.
The COVID-19 shift
The COVID-19 scenario propelled an increase in ERIK’S sales as products of leisure and sports equipment were in high demand during the pandemic. Bikes were a way to adapt better to social distancing and get a bit of fresh air. Their sales grew up triple digits even with restrictions that prevented customers from physically visiting a number of their retail locations. So the revenue usually driven by people just walking into stores and talking to their salespeople had moved online.
In many categories, the supply chain did not keep up with this increase in demand, so ERIK’S faced a lack of inventory. This sudden reduction of product availability pushed customers to drive more than 200 miles to look for a bike that was not available anywhere else. Yet, there wasn’t any way to tell the customers on the website where the bike was available – it was only during the checkout process on the website that they were able to see if an item was in stock and available for pick-up at a store they were willing to drive to.
This information gap drove numerous calls and chat messages to ERIK’S customer service team. Customers were continuously asking for more information regarding the physical location of products they found on the website. ERIK’S team would then have to perform manual searches within their POS to provide this information to the customer.
Identifying the root cause of the problem.
The communications volume received by the customer service team increased dramatically. ERIK’S assigned an extra task force of their store specialists to cope with the demand, increasing the team by 25% over its original size. Customer service is so crucial to the company that Erik himself – and the group of company leaders – dove into their customer support and started to answer calls, write emails and reply to the online chats.
It became clear that there was a significant increase in customers asking about product availability. Customers were trying to find out where specific items were located, and they were unable to easily find that information themselves on the website.
“People would ask ‘Hey, I see you have this bike, where is it located?’ And that team was having to go into our internal point of sale system and say it’s in Madison, Wisconsin, it’s a 200-mile drive. And the customers say, ‘Well, that’s fine, I’ll drive and check it out.’ “Graeme Bloor, VP of Digital and Information Technologies at Erik’s Bike Shop
Geo-location came alongside efficiency.
COVID-19 had uncovered a problem that ERIK’S didn’t know existed and made it clear that this needed to be solved quickly to improve the customer experience. The website had to provide all information regarding product availability and inventory location before customers reached out to the contact center or made any unnecessary trips to the stores.
The VTEX geo-location solution tackles this exact issue: the shopper can see if the products they want are available at their current location in real time on the product page. . Displaying the availability information based on the user’s location straight from the shelf and product pages dramatically decreased the volume of calls and chats coming to ERIK’S customer service team.
The technology behind the solution
The VTEX geo-location is a composition of two native apps: the Shopper Location App and the Product Availability App, both of which are built on top of VTEX IO, VTEX’s low-code development platform. The first one looks for information based on the user’s IP and browser to access their location data. The IP provides general, anonymized information such as city and country.
Once the customer agrees to give information about their location, more accurate inventory data is available when navigating ERIK’S website. There’s no need to provide any personal information, making it secure and frictionless for the end-user.
After the Shopper Location App collects the location information, the Product Availability App comes to play. It validates with the catalog which products are available in the shopper’s area, showing the results as a seamless widget added to the shelf and product pages. This shows the customer the inventory location for a specific product early in their buying journey, listing the closest store that stocks the item first, and then showing other stores further away as you go down the list.
ERIK’S customers had their inventory location questions answered when all the necessary information about the product’s location was provided on their website. They didn’t need to make the extra effort of contacting the customer service team. The customer service team no longer had to manually search ERIK’S inventory system to inform customers where a specific item was located. The product’s availability at each retail location was already displayed on the shelf as part of the shopping experience.
The month after implementing the solution, there was a decrease of 44% on communications per order, a new metric that Graeme Bloor, VP of Digital and Information Technologies, introduced to track contact center performance. Emails per order dropped by 20%, while chat interactions dropped by an outstanding 68%. Chat and email are the primary communication channels used by customers to get “quick answers.” Hence, it is unsurprising that these two channels saw the largest decrease once the inventory location information was made available on the site.
“I was blown away by the actual metrics. I was definitely expecting a positive impact, but this is way beyond what I was expecting to see. It’s pretty exciting anytime you can manage to take 50% of the work off your team!”Graeme Bloor, VP of Digital and Information Technologies at Erik’s Bike
The geo-localization feature massively increased ERIK’S operational efficiency. Due to the drop in the communication volume, their team experienced about 50% less workload, driving efficiency higher than pre-pandemic levels.