Hästens is a 167 year old Swedish company known for high quality handmade beds and its iconic blue check pattern. With locations in 46 countries around the world, the firm has been ramping up its e-commerce and payment capabilities, including cutting the time it takes to order a bed in-store via an iPhone from half-an-hour to around two minutes.
The bedmaker has worked with Apple and Salesforce to build this new iPhone client service and point-of-sale app using the Salesforce Mobile SDK, leveraging Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. The COVID crisis put fresh impetus behind the firm’s transformational efforts, says CFO Robert Carlen, driving forward the effort to launch what’s called Hästens Digital Tools:
It's a digital marketing and retail system that is very much based on Sales Cloud. We are combining together [cloud solutions] and offering them to our own stores, but also all to our distributors in the 45 [other] countries we're active in. We're also launching an iOS-based app, freeware, called Heston's Re-store for all our consumers, existing and new. We're using Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Now you can actually purchase online as well.
We are doing a lot more on our CRM and combined system in the stores…basically what we're talking about here is a 360 degree view on customers. Now we are renewing our ERP, we've taken the view to do it outside-in, instead of inside-out. So, we're using the Salesforce technology to keep the customer in the center. It's really been instrumental for us to build this strong customer journey and make sure that everything we do is addressing all the needs that we have to build our brand and build satisfaction of customers.
The CX focus is hardwired into Hästens corporate DNA, so focusing on how to improve the customer journey, be that in-store or remote, was a key priority, he adds, and an ongoing one:
What we set out to do when we started was to keep it simple and flexible, because there's one thing we don't know about and that's the future. We wanted to have a system that would could scale to our future growth, to keep it simple from the beginning and really grow with the system, rather than trying to build something that is going to work forever. We know that whatever we build today, we're going to continue to develop.
Putting into practice
While COVID may have acted as a change accelerant, work on the revised retail systems actually began two years ago, recalls Mikael Wennberg, Digital Transformation Lead. A specific goal was to enable total independence of location so Hästens own users and those of its partners can “meet the customer anywhere” and do payment configurations on the fly on the iOS app on the phone:
In this app, they have everything they need. They can check inventory. They can configure beds. They can add accessories. They can proceed with payments. They can use Payment Link or they can add wire transfer. In some cases, they can add cash. All payments methods are [location] independent of where they are...So the whole chain from actually putting a lead into the app, through until they make a purchase order to our factory to get the bed the customer ordered, they can do everything on the app.
Dutch payments platform provider Adyen’s Payment Link offering is a core part of this, he adds:
[This] means that in our store, whether the customer is in front of us or at a remote distance, when we press Payment Link, we actually capture data from Salesforce. We send it the amount to pay, receive a payment link, which we incorporate in an online document that is sent to the customer. So [the customer] receives a sales order with the embedded payment link, clicks on that link and lands on the secure payment gateway for performing the payment. As soon as the payment is ready, then we receive the information that it's paid. We create cash entries which are sent directly into our accounting software. It's worked really smoothly and it's so quick…Even if the customer is front of us, we don't have to take the card and swipe it in the machine. It can use any type [of payment], like Apple Pay, in the payment gateway. It's very smooth and we think that this is the future method of payment, even for in-store payments.
Time saving has been a demonstrable benefit, he explains:
We had a situation where normal transaction and configuration data was like a 30 minute job for a sales associate and and we wanted to shorten that down. With the help of Salesforce and the retail system, now we can say that the average sale, when it comes to the actual thing that configures the bed and does the payment, that's about two minutes now. So it's a substantial cut in that time and instead, the sales staff can spend more time actually helping the customer to get the best bed for them.
This has all been a learning experience for Hästens and there are some clear takeaways that Wennberg can point to, beginning with the need to have all stakeholders aligned and “super on” when it comes to executing on the project. Top level buy-in in this case was facilitated by visits to both Apple and Salesforce’s corporate HQs in California, which proved to be a good opportunity to get everyone on the same page, he says:
Visiting Apple in Cupertino and Salesforce in San Francisco, that was like an eye opener for most of the management team when they were there. If you have the stakeholders in the company and the management aboard, then everything will go smooth. That is our experience at least.
Another thing to emerge from the visit to Apple was a philosophy of starting small and making it simple, he adds:
We made a small MVP [Minimum Viable Product] and we launched it to our own stores. They gave us feedback, we made necessary changes and we have constant releases. We didn't want to build a massive system from the start, we wanted to do it step-by-step. We had releases once a week, with small add-on features. That was really good, but also needed some work from our own stores, but it was worth it.
The other important advice from Hästens experience is to ensure you have your own skills in-house. The retailer was already a Salesforce user, but lacked development skills internally. This was particularly important as there was a need to make the Salesforce instance look like a Hästens system that was optimised to the firm’s specific needs. The firm turned to Deloitte for assistance, but this wasn’t a long-term option, says Wennberg:
In the beginning we relied a lot on [Deloitte] who helped us develop new stuff, but at an early stage we understood that we need to have more in-house competence, so we went out to find really good Salesforce architects. We've started to incorporate them into our team in Amsterdam. They [worked very intensely] in the first three months, together and with Deloitte. It was a very smooth transaction and transfer of knowledge. I think that the key is to get really, really skilled Salesforce people in-house at an architect level, so you can own the architect process and you don't get a dependency [on third parties].
As with all other retailers, Hästens is now looking ahead to the Vaccine Economy and considering what the shape of the industry will be after COVID. Pre-pandemic, a feature of the firm’s sales model was inviting customers in-store for a 'bed test'. This is something that Carlen thinks will still be a part of future operations, albeit with some adjustments:
Customers that we do get into the stores for a bed test, we will book them in. We will book ample time for each customer to be on their own in the store. We're going to see less spontaneous visitors into the store and more planned visitors. That's the takeaway from now - to make it secure and for the customers to feel secure and safe and also to give them a much better experience.
The same health and safety considerations play into the increased emphasis on e-commerce and payment tech solutions now in place and producing dividends. It’s been the proverbial 'journey' to get here and one that’s required a leap of faith on occasion, but has paid off. As Carlen concludes:
The simple truth to this is that we didn't know it all, but we just threw ourselves into it and we learned as we went. We gained knowledge and we embraced new knowledge…If we would have known it all, it would have scared us, because there was so much to do. But we just threw ourselves into it. I think that’s [part of the] secret - not trying to over plan everything, but just go with it.