Digital, THOM Europe’s new showpiece

Romain PeninqueSince the 2013 launch of its e-commerce site histoiredor.com, THOM Europe has been working double time to advance its digital transformation and implement digital initiatives throughout its value chain. CEO Romain Peninque elaborates.

Putting thoughts, ultimately, into action

“The thought process behind our digital transformation was rather long,” said Romain. Coming from “a very strong physical distribution culture”, THOM Europe began thinking about its digital transformation as early as 2011, and initiated plans to create an e-commerce site. Romain Peninque remembers in particular a meeting with Eram’s executives the following year. “They had just launched an e-commerce site for one of their subsidiaries in an effort to find new growth drivers.”

The success of that initiative confirmed THOM Europe’s thinking, and histoiredor.com’s e-commerce site was online by the spring of the following year. “We were really encouraged by our shareholder, Apax Partners, which had experienced great success with Maisons du Monde’s digitalisation. The month after Apax Partners invested in our company, they introduced us to the right partners to help us succeed,” added Romain.

From e-commerce to large scale digital

2013 marked the first phase of THOM Europe’s digitalisation. But for Romain Peninque, “a company’s digitalisation is not only having an e-commerce site; there is also the impact it can have on the entire company, and especially on the stores.” So after the online sales site, the management team tackled the digitalisation of its internal processes.

Digitised paper documents on smartphones, customer satisfaction questionnaires sent automatically by email, automated reimbursements, and a new CRM policy “are on the list of initiatives that we want to undertake over the next five years,” Romain said. Among the initiatives already begun is inventory mobility, a major project the brand initiated six months ago. The idea is for a customer to be able to order a piece of jewellery online, whether it is inventoried in Paris, Marseille or Lyon, and have it delivered to him, to the store, or to the address of his choice – a logistical challenge for a company with more than 330 Histoire d’Or stores in France. “This idea has now been tested on about 20% of our listed items throughout the country.” The next steps are to expand inventory mobility to all items, brands and locations.

This digital initiative complements the click & collect system introduced when the Histoire d’Or online sales site was launched and the two-hour express delivery service offered in 2015 in Paris, Lyon, Lille and Marseille. “We wanted to offer the best service to meet the very strong demand for speed in this sector.” Although Romain believes THOM Europe is now “well equipped” service-wise, he does not plan to stop there. “We have to continue to break new ground; otherwise our competitors will catch up with us.”

In addition to improving the services offered to customers, digital will also facilitate the jewellery production cycle. First of all, by reducing the time to market, owing in particular to the digitalisation of the in-house design approval processes. Secondly, by developing a customised jewellery service. “Beyond the revenue impact, I think this is an essential capability because it helps to project a positive and vibrant image of the company. Finally, through a better understanding of customer data: “A constant challenge that is increasingly part of the agenda.”

“No one knows how much digitalisation is going to transform retail”

Considering the success of THOM Europe’s digital transformation, Romain Peninque remains humble. “Within the company, we are very aware of the importance of digital, and realise, above all, how much further we have to go.” Asked for his advice for successful digital transformation, he says: “I will answer modestly because I would like to receive some myself!” Firstly, “be humble, because no one knows today how much digitalisation is going to transform retail.” Accordingly, he recommends discussion among colleagues, innovation specialists, consultants, start-ups, etc., “to keep an eye on all the innovations that are likely to emerge, and what they will be able to contribute to the business.”  Don’t make the mistake of jumping into trendy but useless projects. “In-store video-catalogues, for example. Everyone was talking about them, but it finally became obvious that they were generating very little business.”

The second piece of advice is to consider the impact of digital on the organisation. “The resistance to change can be substantial, especially in retail. It would be a mistake not to get the stores on board, since they still represent the vast majority of the business.” So that the teams on the ground don’t feel like e-commerce is cannibalising their earnings, THOM Europe decided that all of its online sales would count towards the achievement of in-store targets.” That’s a strategy worth its weight in gold.

Read the second edition of the Barometer on the digital maturity of mid-sized companies.

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