Luxury tea house, Kusmi Tea, which has over a hundred boutiques around the world, has detailed the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic after all its stores across Europe temporarily closed during the lockdown of spring 2020. The brand, which dates back to 1867, said the company had been able to survive the storm largely thanks to putting in place e-commerce and digital technology that helped it continue to operate during a very challenging period.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the Institute of Connected Commerce, Bruno Contrepoids, IT Director at Kusmi Tea, said that the retailer was able to use the lockdown period to accelerate its digital and omnichannel plans in a bid to strengthen customer service:
Both our staff, and our customers, have managed to forge pretty good relations. This was maybe strengthened by living through such an unusual situation; but also thanks to omnichannel technology.
IT Director at Kusmi Tea
Kusmi Tea has been undergoing a digital transformation since launching a new e-commerce platform in February, which took 18 months to complete. It turned out to be perfect timing, given that customers were able to order online during the lockdown from its wide range of specially selected teas. “Traffic and growth have tripled,” said the CIO. “We are fortunate to be firmly anchored in France, which made logistics a lot easier. Our platform really ran at full speed and we were able to deliver to our customers in good time.” Kusmi Tea is proud of its ‘Made in France’ credentials and believes that consumers are increasingly drawn to brands with a solid commitment to the environment. The company claims to be reducing its carbon footprint by keeping production in France and limiting the use of plastics in packaging.
Implementing Click & Collect
Following the reopening of its stores and the success of online sales, the retailer was then enlivened to put in place a Click-and-Collect service:
We were concerned that some customers would be reluctant to return to the physical store and we saw this new service as bridging the gap between customers and stores and allowing us to recreate a link between them.
There are many ways to maintain contact between stores and customers in omnichannel retailing. E-commerce and the physical store don’t have to live in separate worlds. Online retail, for us, is an add-on benefit for retail that helps drive traffic to the store. We sell products that need to be seen, tasted and experienced. On a digital platform, it’s impossible to get all the sensations that can be experienced in a store.
IT Director at Kusmi Tea
Importance of real-time information
Kusmi Tea relies on the Cegid Retail platform being connected to its e-commerce platform for real-time information on stocks and sales and to get a detailed picture of its customers. Knowing how, where and what customers consume is vital: “It’s essential to have the right tools that communicate with each other and all this has to be done in real time. It’s no good having a Click-and-Collect service if the stock isn’t updated regularly - you’ll only end up disappointing your customers,” said the IT expert. He also stressed the importance of speed, especially when it comes to managing payments and refunding customers promptly so they don’t have to wait 8 days to get their money back.
Kusmi Tea is next turning its attention on rethinking the organisation of its stores and how digital technologies might transform the point of sale, which Contrepoids now considers to be a bit frozen in time. Mobile tools and devices to help sales staff better serve customers might just be the perfect brew.