How Camper won new customers with omni-channel retail

'Omni-channel retail' has become the new buzzword in e-commerce. More connected than multi-channel communication, omni-channel marketing is the idea that a company should have a seamless relationship with all their customers, constantly pre-empting their next choice and steering them towards another purchase through a variety of touch points.


A few minutes chatting to Enar Lazcano Alberdi, COO of Camper, confirms how successful that approach can be. This is a company that has truly grasped the opportunities of omni-channel selling - and it’s not only about the digital side of things. For Camper, the power of a hybrid omni-channel strategy is in the relationship it helps to establish between the brand and the consumer – regardless of whether that contact is made physically or digitally. And for a family-owned company like Camper that relationship is in its DNA.

Lorenzo Fluxa founded the business back in 1975 - and he did it on what was at the time quite a revolutionary concept. Back in the 70's, the typical growth model was that you created a product, it built a following and that became, over time, your brand.

Lorenzo spun the model on its head. Spain has always been synonymous with high quality leatherwork, and the footwear industry is one of the country’s strongest sectors. He saw the opportunity to develop a counter-culture brand for, as Enar puts it, ‘people who didn’t just want brown shoes’. Camper, which means ‘farmer’ in Catalan, would be a design-led footwear brand focused on innovative styles. Branding and communication came first, production and sourcing followed. And it worked. The business grew steadily in Spain and France, developing a following of devoted fans.

But the watershed moment for Camper came in the mid 1990s with the launch of the iconic Pelotas shoe. The design caught the imagination of shoppers across Europe and Asia, and to-date around 15 million pairs have been sold worldwide.

Today, Camper has stores in more than 60 countries, over 1000 employees and an annual turnover of around USD$200million. Its website receives more than 1 million hits every year and that number is growing as the business ventures into new markets in China and Hong Kong.

In Camper’s omni-channel world, the relationship between the physical and digital touchpoint isn’t simply complementary. They are interwoven, meshed. The digital environment can be accessed via the store, and the store via the internet. Enar explains;

“More and more, it’s getting difficult to say, this customer is online and this customer is offline. The customer finds the store on google maps, they visit the store and then they order their purchase on the iPad in the store because they didn’t have their size. The new reality is, it’s one consumer and you are giving them so many touch points – so we can stay as close to them as possible.” 

The principles of always-on omni-channel retail are reflected throughout the Camper organization. Enar doesn’t see the stores as simply outlets. They are a vital conduit of CRM where the staff can gather data from visitors and start building that all-important relationship with the brand. Enar told us:

“Whether it be a store, a showroom to support virtual sales, a repair centre, a distribution point, recycling point or a consumer hub, stores in the omni-channel era provide additional functions and value more than ever. As a central touch point, our teams and the entire retail brand experience is essential for developing brand value.”

This makes perfect commercial sense. Store staff have a clear understanding of each season’s product line as well as the typical Camper customer. Obviously, CRM technology plays a key part in managing and developing the omni-channel customer relationship - but the balance between tech and people is also a critical factor.

As the omni-channel influence grows, the importance of logistics becomes ever greater. Camper prides itself on the quality of its customer service - whether that’s online, in-store…or on the doorstep. “Cost is important but our shoe is not a €50 shoe. Our selling price is €150. Someone who pays that kind of money expects a certain, premium level of service”. Enar goes on to describes the ‘Global Stock’ model the business deploys to keep those customers satisfied.

“We need a partner that gives us the flexibility to pick up anywhere and deliver anywhere.”

This flexibility is key - not only to Camper’s omni-channel ambitions but to any online seller who sees their future in this holistic sales environment. No longer do stores, wholesalers and warehouses hold just their own stock for their own local customers. In today’s demand-driven e-commerce world, as Camper shows us so evidently, stock has to move to where it’s needed - efficiently and profitably. This isn’t a new strategy for the company, but they were one of the first brands to realize the opportunities of switching to a fluid stock strategy.

Four or five years ago, we said to the delivery company ‘you need to pick-up from the Paris store and deliver in Zurich’. This is not easy for one pair of shoes. It’s a very ad-hoc service for home delivery. Today, businesses are more used to this, but five years ago…it was like ‘what are you talking about?!'. That’s why we selected DHL, they provided a unique solution for the whole of Europe. And that’s not easy to find.

Which is why a product like Parcel Connect is vital for businesses embracing the omni-channel challenge across European markets. As a business owner, you will pour your time and energy into ensuring your communications to the customer are seamlessly aligned across the sites they visit, their social media feeds and your sales channels. But ultimately, reliable and cost-efficient fulfilment will make – or break – their experience, a point that Enar understands well…

“We cannot integrate with one courier for each service for each country… impossible! It takes a lot of time from the IT team. DHL said ‘we will be the ones to inject your deliveries with the best local courier in each country. But DHL will be your one point of contact for delivery, for returns - so don’t worry.' We really liked the concept – better costs, simple and fast.”

As e-commerce matures into the new era of omni-channel marketing, partnering with a provider who can deliver market-leading service levels across 28 countries, using best-in-class local carriers may just give you the head-space you’ll need to make it work. Just as Camper have.