Brede Bjerke of Dynamicweb: “Experience at its center”

Experience at its center — If I ask you to remember a positive retail experience. I’m sure you can come up with several. If I ask you about a negative one, I think you can come up with several as well. What it come’s down to is that you need to have experience at the center of […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Experience at its center — If I ask you to remember a positive retail experience. I’m sure you can come up with several. If I ask you about a negative one, I think you can come up with several as well. What it come’s down to is that you need to have experience at the center of your commerce strategy. Every step counts, and when you want customers to come back you need to have the post-sales process in order as well.

As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brede Bjerke. He has worked in large B2B companies, where he was responsible for constructing and developing international Sales and Marketing organizations.

During his 20+ year career, Mr. Bjerke has been a leading expert in the fields of mergers and acquisitions, branding, redesigning, and repositioning processes as well as in organizational transformations involving implementation of large IT projects to support current sales and marketing activities. In this respect Mr. Bjerke has a wide knowledge of possibilities and potential traps, which can occur when implementing complex business solutions, both on an organizational and on a commercial level.

Prior to joining Dynamicweb in 2012, Brede Bjerke worked as the CEO of a printing company where his responsibilities were revenue gain and expanding the geographical marketspace, and opening sales offices in a larger number of markets.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My journey in the IT sphere started early/mid zeros where I was a CCO for a big wholesale company within the FMCG industry. Our pain was that our cost level was proportional to our growth. Meaning one dollar more in revenue literally generated 0,99 dollar of costs. This needed to change! Looking into our business we had 1.500 customers, in 17 countries operating in 10 currencies making it a complex business to change. So what we did was locking ourselves (Business, IT, Finance, Management) in to this “think bubble” for a period and started yellow posting ideas to change this picture. The funny thing was that the solution always ended up in offering customers more self-service than actually servicing them more. Having said that it was also impossible to offer more service than we already did. We worked around the clock, weekend’s, got up early in the morning calling all customers at exact times etc. etc. Basically, we were servicing ourselves and our company to the point where it made no sense anymore (at least if you look into the numbers). As said it always came back to giving more self service to our customers and the solution to this was to offer customers their own ordering and self-service portal. Please remember that we are back in the early/mid zero’s…so developing and implementing a system to handle this was not just an “Out Of The Box” thingy and it was certainly not a concept that my sales reps found a good idea hence it would change their daily operations significantly.

That was how I started my journey in ecommerce.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I was working with a big retailer in trying to transform a commodity category into a branded buying experience. In the journey towards reaching this experience level I came to learn that all products have their own story to tell and that it’s not a question “if” you can brand a category indifferent of whether it’s nails, a piece of meat or the local service provider. What I did NOT realize upfront was the fact that transforming a commodity product into a brand requires significant focus on the pricing element of the marketing mix. During intensive testing we found out that we had the right distribution channels, and we had the right placing in the stores. We also had a state-of-the-art packaging and the emotional feeling we wanted to see in the moment of purchase were also in place…So all looked just fine but we failed in the sales numbers…A colleague of mine then got the idea to test out the same concept in another store but tripled the price. What amazed us mostly was that besides earning more money throughout the whole value chain….(we split the extra margin equally) then we actually also sold 60% more in quantity.

Mistake maybe — fun….don’t think so….but I was amazed of the influence of the pricing element in the marketing mix in this case. So the take away must be that we shouldn’t let our own perception call the shots….We should understand and work with the marketing mix in a structured and disciplined way. ALSO trying out increasing the price to where we almost feel guilty….Customers seem to interpret it differently than the suppliers do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My stepfather. He came into my life in a pretty old age. I think I was 20 or so and he entered my life after I finished high school and while I was doing some travelling and ski guiding.

After travelling I returned home to start studying. Only problem was that I didn’t know what to study….

My stepfather used a lot of time to talk to me. Initially to get to know me and to really understand my personal drivers…….What really made the difference was his thorough, sincere and genuine interest in ME. He didn’t have any hidden agendas….he just wanted to understand what I wanted to do and who I was. In that way he just and asked and asked until I all of a sudden realized my future path myself. I will be forever thankful for that.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I read the biography of Maersk McKinney Moller by Jan Cortzen. I must admit that that man (and his father A.P. Moller) has achieved some very remarkable results but using common sense and simple and very powerful virtues like “the one who has the ability also has the responsibility” and “take care timely”

Another topic that I have consumed by reading quite a bunch of books is D-day. I still get puzzled by the fact that youngsters and countries were willing to sacrifice so many lives on some distant beaches for a “higher purpose” which probably most of them didn’t even know what was. What is it that drives so many (apparently well-functioning) human beings into an almost certain death without even understanding why? Besides this more High flying question; the story is exiting and understanding our history is important to me.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At Dynamicweb we value our customer centric approach. It’s a beaten to dead theme, but at Dynamicweb we do have a strong focus on this. Ranging from our product development being close to our implementing partners and implementations as well as our support department. This helps them to have a listing ear to what our customers need.

From there we are working on helping our customers to offer the best possible digital customer experience and to scale their ecommerce success through our experience across the ecommerce market.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

In B2B and in Ecommerce we are often seeing that digital transformation is still a challenge for many organizations. Resulting in a lot of manual work that could be eradicated by implementing the right technology, but more important having the right digital strategy that will help drive success in the organization, and the individual. Giving time back to focus on what really matters.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

First I would like to add that although the examples are of well known, massive, brands — size does not have to matter in the success of the profitability of the retailers. But we can learn from these organizations.

What each of these brand examples has done well is that they have made the jump to ecommerce. Some earlier than others, which tells you that it is never to late to start. But do start with your ecommerce journey!

And in this jump they have focused on several key parts that make them a success:

  • The overall customer and ecommerce experience
  • A frictionless ecommerce experience

They have build very accessible ecommerce platforms, supported by apps if needed, that allows you to have easy access to their products and choice in the delivery process. Everything is branded accordingly and adds up to the positive ecommerce experience.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

With the ongoing digital transformation, local, national and even international retailers are going to feel the increase of other international players joining the already crowded playing field. Manufacturers that are adding D2C to their sales channels, competing to some degree with their retailers. Marketplaces like Amazon expanding their reach on a continuous base and many more like these.

But with the right ecommerce strategy any retailer has a good chance standing against these behemoths. Have your product data in order so that you can feed into marketplaces, and your own ecommerce channel. Rich product data will get picked up by the search engine and enables you to expand your sales reach. Focus on offering the best possible experience is something that isn’t a technology challenge anymore, but a business one. Prioritize this and you are enabling your company for success, but look and include every step!

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Lack of understanding

  • Of the needed effort: hours, days etc.
  • That the physical and the digital world becomes one
  • That consumers expect a seamless experience

Not focusing enough on the digital strategy part, feeding into the possibilities that modern day technology offers that drives a better customer experience and through that making sure you succeed in ecommerce.

Although there are many elements that drive a successful commerce business, common elements are:

  • Strong digital strategy with a focus on customer experience
  • A fast and rich ecommerce storefront
  • A marketing foundation that drives all above

Let me expand on this:

A digital strategy with a focus on customer experience — what is the full experience you can offer. If you are an offline brick and mortar retailer, what are you doing to tie your customers to you? Are you getting their email addresses to create more additional touchpoints to your brand (not always trying to sell something)? Maybe even their addresses so you can sent them a Christmas greeting at the end of the year.

If we take this to digital, how are people able to find your ecommerce shop? Are you able to track where traffic is coming from so you can spend more on the successful channels? Is the website recognizing return visitors and applying simple frontpage personalization so you can increase shopping cart conversion? What happens when someone does purchase your product via the webshop? Are you sending the receipt in a plain email? Or are you using this moment to drive a positive moment? Let alone the shipping of the product? Simple brown box or something more?

This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?

I think we cover this in the topic above ☺

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

There are many elements that drive a poor experience, the disconnect between expectation and reality is something that needs to be carefully monitored and improved. How often are we surprised by a slow loading website, search that is showing completely irrelevant results, even when we are logged into the customer portal why am I seeing irrelevant products? Technology isn’t the problem. It’s not hard, or costly.

The challenges are often that we are making things unnecessarily complex for ourselves and we lose focus on what matters. Keep that focus, keep that testing mentality and focus on offering a positive ecommerce experience.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Our solution allows our customers to drive better digital customer experiences and to scale their ecommerce success. Through our digital experience platform we enable our customers, ranging from B2B to B2C, from manufacturers to retailers, to wow their customers. Offer a fast personalized ecommerce storefront that recognizes the browser and tries to offer the best possible product matches and shopping experience. Allow for triggered email automation to either bring back the non-converting browser and turn them into lifelong customers. When you have the right technology this becomes very achievable and easy to improve upon, allowing any retailer to wow their customer with the best possible digital customer experience.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It absolutely does! As a retailer, if you are able to offer the wow! Experience you are able to tie this customer to you for a long time. It’s common knowledge that it’s easier to upsell to existing customers than it is to get new customers.

In addition to this is that when you are able to offer this positive experience and the shopper experiences it like this they will tell others about this.

A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?

It almost never is just one specific thing that adds to the positive shopping experience. Sadly, destroying a brand experience can happen through just one element. Therefor it’s so important to ensure that every step in the customer journey is important and should be looked at closely.

In ecommerce there are several ingredients that make for the fantastic retail experience, and some that should be there always. If we start with the latter it is:

  • The website should be fast and easy accessible
  • The process should be clear and easy to check-out
  • The product data should be complete, accurate and ideally rich

What can make that fantastic retail experience is:

  • Apply personalization based on implicit and explicit available data. This is important in B2C and B2B!
  • Apply marketing automation, multivariant testing and personalization to ensure the best possible performing ecommerce environment
  • Have the right marketing technology stack available to drives a better customer experience from the start all the way to the end (and then circle back to the beginning)
  • Build a relation with the customer, digital and offline!
  • Have full insights and control about every touchpoint in the customer journey!

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Experience at its center — If I ask you to remember a positive retail experience. I’m sure you can come up with several. If I ask you about a negative one, I think you can come up with several as well. What it come’s down to is that you need to have experience at the center of your commerce strategy. Every step counts, and when you want customers to come back you need to have the post-sales process in order as well.

Customer Journey mapped out — Work out the customer journey. It might be more than one, it’s probably different for offline than it is for online. When you do have both, you should have a plan to bring them together. Use online to bring visitors back to your on- or offline store. Map out what happens after the sale, how can you bring people back?

Product Experience — there is nothing more frustrating than ordering something, having it deliver to then figure out that the product information you depended on was incomplete or just plain wrong. The ability to try and experience the product as best as possible beforehand depends on many factors, but rich and accurate product information can be used in many ways.

Digital Transformation — have technology work for you, not against you. Think about what you can automate, so you can scale. How you can improve the experience by connecting your website and ordering system to a marketing automation solution that will trigger the right emails and automation flows. For abandoned shopping carts, for successful transactions, to get return visitors and happy shoppers. The possibilities with technology are almost limitless.

Scale — now that you have setup your digital processes, technology and potentially people, you can scale. Put kerosene on your sales channels and scale hard! Keep an eye out on performance, see how the customer experience part is automated and take it from there!

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Watch the movie “Soul” from Disney Pixar and I think you will have the answer.

How can our readers further follow your work?

The best way is to follow Dynamicweb on our Linkedin company page, here:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    Kate Fratalia of Loggerhead Marinelife Center: “Be observant”

    by Orlando Zayas

    Jason Junge of PointerTop: “Define your target customer demographic and ideal persona to ensure that your marketing is focused and effective”

    by Orlando Zayas

    Megan O’Hara: “Respect and appreciate people who work for or with you”

    by Orlando Zayas
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.