Dennis Alferink & Lisette van Bemmel: “It’s at the core of Gazelle to put the consumer first”
In the E-bike survey of August 2021, Dutch bicycle brand Gazelle leads the way and puts the number two behind by two points. A conversation with Lisette van Bemmel (Digital Content Manager) and Dennis Alferink (Product Owner). About listening to customers anytime, anywhere, the power of a strong brand, the role of brick and mortar stores, and much more.
How important is it for you to win? And the follow-up question: what is going well with you?
DA: “I see this leading position in the WUA E-bike research primarily as recognition that we are going into the right direction and that consumers appreciate the changes and improvements we are making.”
Do you mainly do your own thing at Gazelle, or do you keep a close eye on the competition?
DA: “It is typical for us as a brand that we mainly rely on our own strength. We are a market leader for a reason: it means that you look forward and not sideways at what the competition is doing. Of course, we do look at what the competition is doing, but mainly for inspiration. What our competitors are doing is not a direct reason for us to change anything or to do exactly as they do.”
LB: “We prefer to look at what consumers think and want. We collect that input through various channels and that is how we achieve improvements. We are always open to what the consumer says and thinks.”
So you really develop entirely based on customer research and always take customer feedback as a starting point?
LB: “Yes. Our starting point is always the consumer and what he or she thinks. We want to do as much research as possible and collect feedback and develop our website based on that feedback.”
So what role should consumer research play within Gazelle in your opinion?
LB: “It has top priority. If you’re not doing research when you are making a consumer product, you are working from an ivory tower. It is at the core of Gazelle to put the consumer first.”
What does the digital organization look like at Gazelle?
LB: “The digital team is part of the marketing team. Our digital team includes a webshop manager, a UX designer, digital marketers, Dennis as our Product Owner, and myself as a Content Manager. We work a lot with our colleagues from Brand, Product Management, and the local marketers in different markets.”
What could be improved at Gazelle in the digital field?
DA: “We would like to do more structural research. Preferably from the start, when creating new content or a new feature, but also immediately after delivery, and also months later. We currently do this in the event of major changes, but it would be better if we could do this in a more structural way. We want to do more and better research into online behavior in order to learn and improve faster. Our aim is to be able to respond even better to customer needs.”
How do you respond to important developments, in the digital and technological field?
DA: “In terms of technology, we look for the consumer needs and we look at what is the best technical option. Because our target group does not fully consist of digital natives, we are sometimes a bit more conservative and user-friendliness is very important. As an example, we could also have chosen to add tooling with augmented reality. But what is the added value for our customers? Is he really waiting for that? These are considerations that we make before responding to trends or technological developments.”
With a strong brand that has been around for more than 128 years, you use the power of mortar and bricks to get the clicks. What role do the Gazelle stores play?
LB: “Our stores are very important to us, they are an important part of our strategy and offer consumers, among other things, service and maintenance in an accessible way. We firmly believe in this omnichannel strategy because a bicycle, and especially an e-bike, is really a service product. We attach great importance to the fact that you can go for maintenance with your bicycle nearby.
“Of course, our dealers are also important brand ambassadors. They maintain the brand image and the brand feeling. They sell our brand. All our bicycles are always delivered to a shop. So even if you want to have it delivered to your home, you will get it delivered to your home through the store in your living area. We think that is really very important.”
What is a major challenge for you internally, to contribute more to that overall KPI of profit or of growth?
DA: “Time! We always want to grow and it would be nice if we had more time to set up even more research to make our digital products fit even better with the customer journey. When we conduct research, we are always very busy with it, including the implementation of the study insights, to achieve improvements. But I notice that afterward we often quickly return to the order of the day. The development of improvement based on new insights is also labor-intensive and sometimes has longer lead times than we would like it to have.
“We need to find a better balance between making improvements and conducting the research. Sometimes we start too soon with the next project that we also want to do and then we only do an incidental analysis of what we delivered. Our roadmap is of course full of ambition, it is always a matter of making choices. It would be a dream for me to measure structurally, continuously monitor and adjust when necessary.
“You always want more. That is inherent to working in marketing: you always see opportunities, you always want to improve and you always want to go one step further.”
Time, money, and energy are the axes of scarcity that we all have to deal with. Do you have a slip or something that you are really proud of that you think: I really learned a lot from that?
LB: “For me, that’s a change in mindset. Especially to never think for a consumer again. This may make it easy for a consumer in your own eyes, but you can also suddenly skip a step or fill in something in advance that does not make sense at all. That is not always appreciated, because sometimes consumers do not understand what is happening and sometimes, they just want to make a choice themselves, they want to be in charge and remain in control!”
Any tips for people who either work on the content piece or are product owner?
LB: “Do your research in a structural way! Take your customers seriously and listen to them. Always keep improving based on customer feedback.”
DA: “Be pragmatic with doing research, too. You can also watch screen recordings of consumers for half an hour every day. You learn so much from that. It doesn’t always have to be prestigious or high-end. A simple A/B test can help you make big steps, too.”
From left to right: Luc Overbeek / Webshop manager. Second row: Olivier van Dijl (Digital Marketeer), Duuk Prins (UX Designer), Tom Dalenberg (Developer). Front row: Pim Teunissen (Manager Digital), Lisette van Bemmel (Digital Content Manager), Dennis Alferink (Product Owner), Tom Gentenaar (Webshop manager).