Individualism made by Villeroy & Boch
BY SANDY STRASSER
Heralded the world over for its exquisite range of ceramics, Villeroy & Boch from the Saarland traces its origins back to 1748. The French Revolution would take place only half a century later, the German ones a full century later. François Boch bore the magnificent title of Bombardier du Roi. The royal iron founder from the village of Audun-le-Tiche in Lorraine however, had a different career in mind for himself and his three sons and set up a manufacture of ceramic crockery. Later on in history the Iron Chancellor Bismarck would model his social insurance schemes on that of the company who had by then already been putting them to good use for over seventy years. Today the company is still as industrious and avant-garde as it has ever been. The latest testimony to this must be its internet presence as Thomas Ochs and Béatrice Jungblut, respectively Chief Information Officer and Director of Corporate Marketing and Online may demonstrate: if needed even in 3D.
What route has a classic customer journey at Villeroy & Boch?
Béatrice Jungblut: The classic customer journey actually does not exist. You can begin with tableware through social media, our website or visiting our local store and finish either there or on our cross-channel services online. Trading partners play a central role in our bathroom and wellness division. Although trading journeys often start online, where customers can inform themselves on social media or on our website, it ends in each case with our trading partners.
What platform fits a European industrial company best for online brand management?
B. J.: Of great importance is our consumer page where customers comprehensive information about our products from both divisions can be obtained. But social media like Facebook and Instagram, where we have dialogues with our customers and offer them visual inspiration, are becoming increasingly important to us. Meaningful are also our blogger relations.
In this context: what to expect in the future from e-commerce?
Thomas Ochs: E-commerce will complement stationary distribution channels. In table culture – our own business – it is of growing importance. Our own e-commerce on the one hand and trading platforms and market places on the other. Especially in countries like the US, where the stationary distribution network is not so well-knit as for example in Germany, we create through e-commerce a close bond with the end user which is important to our a brand success.
How about online and stationary trade: any cases where it interacts particularly well?
B. J.: The interconnection between online and physical retail has a very high priority for us. We want to give the customer the opportunity to learn through various channels about our products and for them to be inspired and ultimately buy through the channel of their choice. The customer journey ought to be an optimal shopping experience. In the tableware division we offer diverse cross-channel services.A first example are the tablets in our House of Villeroy & Boch-Shops which also advise on unavailable stationary. A second is Click and Collect, a service allowing customers to order his goods online and pick them up at a store of their choice.
Worth mentioning in this context is, for example, also an online bathroom planner. Through such offers consumers come into contact with our brand and are provided information about our products. Afterwards representatives can work their baths out in detail.
Your interactive magazine Friends ventures far into the area of content marketing. What experiences were positive and what needs improvement?
B. J.: Content marketing in our view is becoming more important and feedback from our readers has been very positive. Our goal is to address customers on an ever more individual level and to align their respective needs, to inform them precisely at the right moment in their customer journey.
From its online communities – 360,000 followers on Facebook, 20,000 on Instagram – Villeroy & Boch have gone as far as to crowdsource product ideas. Satisfactory results?
B. J.: The advantage over the conventional design process is that one can work with designers from all over the world who also inspire and evaluate each other’s efforts. For a company like ours which offers its products in 125 countries such creative input is very valuable and provides new impetus to the development of our portfolio. We are very pleased with the outcome and the customer feedback. Crowdsourcing remains an exciting tool for us.
Do customers really benefit from an augmented reality app which creates bathrooms?
B. J.: A new bathroom is a considerable investment. Customers thus appreciate it if they can get a highly accurate picture in advance. Using 3D glasses they can literally see before their eyes what they have in mind, move around and observe their new bathroom from various perspectives.
What in this direction is the level of acceptance in B2B and B2C?
T. O.: Feedback was extremely good when we introduced the 3D glasses in the past year at the International Sanitary and Heating Fair in Frankfurt am Main. We are currently in the roll-out. Shortly, one will be able to test the virtual bathroom using 3D glasses in our House of Living in Lübeck and at a wholesaler in Dülmen. Other places – including international ones – will follow. Our dealers can offer an exceptional customer service.
Even in actual production ever shorter innovation cycles can be observed. What new production methods are exciting in your business?
T. O.: An example here is 3D printing, which we already use in prototypes of tableware. The advantage here is less time and that we can accurately determine the product’s measurements in advance.
What is your vision for Villeroy & Boch over the next five to ten years?
B. J.: We see ourselves remain the leader in ceramics, digital brand management and cross channel offerings.
A brief portrait of SDZeCOM
Since 1995 SDZeCOM has delivered engineering services for IT projects with a focus on product communication. It supports renowned international customers with data management (product information and media asset management) and multi-channel communication (database publishing and e-commerce). IPMA Level C-certified project managers and consultants develop individual solutions facilitating the acquisition, management and cross-media publication of product data. Services range from consulting, design and implementation to software development. Last year SDZeCOM was awarded the IT Innovation Award for consulting and therefore appeared in the IT Best List.
Villeroy & Boch and SDZeCOM – Cross channel management optimisation
Villeroy & Boch product communication consists of images, product master data, texts and marketing. All need to be available for e-shops, marketplaces and print media. SDZeCOM from Baden-Württemberg supported by introducing it to product information management of software manufacturer Contentserv. The overall solution makes the modulation of product data automated in the future through corresponding channels, internationally and in at least seven languages.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q1 2016. Picture credit © Villeroy & Boch