Getting closer to the customer


OSRAM is working on a new and improved online shop for its business customers. Mark Gee is relying on agile methods like the ones used at start-ups.

Mark Gee opens the window; the room could use a bit of fresh air. It’s been a few months since the e-commerce business development manager last stepped into his office at the OSRAM subsidiary in Slough near London. Mark prefers to work from his home office. That’s completely normal in his job. After all, he heads up a virtual team, and that works just as well from home – but he is always virtually present for his colleagues. “We skype for 15 minutes every day,” says Mark. Every few weeks he attends meetings at the Munich headquarters.

“Online shops have to create customer experiences similar to Amazon.”

Mark Gee

Mark Gee is responsible for developing the new online shop for business customers within the Next Generation Sales (NGS) project. “The previous one was just too complicated for users,” he says. “You needed a whole video to understand how the shop worked – it was always a big risk that customers would simply leave.” User comments show that Mark isn’t completely wrong. “This is just so annoying!” one customer wrote who had obviously had a bad experience with myOSRAM, the previous e-commerce platform. “It’s difficult to see what is where,” said another user. All this certainly does not meet the expectations of our customers and shows how important the new sales project is for OSRAM.

Half of all orders are placed online

Of course, OSRAM isn’t Amazon. Nevertheless, the e-commerce giant has set the market standard which everyone should follow, the project manager thinks: “If you shop on the internet, you expect the same features like the ones you get on Amazon – simply because you’re used to them.”

A Forester study carried out in 2018, according to which professional buyers will place more than half their orders online in 2020, shows just how strong this effect is. Almost one in every two buyers is a millennial, the generation that is under 35 years of age and has high demands of web applications. “They don’t want to send a fax or call someone, but just order online,” says the 52-year-old.

Mark’s team relies on the advantages of agile methods in the development of the new online shop.

Experience from his own start-up

Even though Mark himself isn’t a digital native, he’s a platform pro. Before he joined OSRAM, he ran the Lamp Specs web shop where private and business customers could buy light sources of all kinds online. In 2016, his business partner bought him out and he swapped working at his own company for working at someone else’s. But why doesn’t he live on a South Sea island, blowing the proceeds from the sale of his share on the high life? “Well, it wouldn’t have been enough for retirement, and I was only 50 at the time,” Mark recalls. “I wanted to continue working, in a meaningful job – and I’ve found it at OSRAM.” Going back to being employed wasn’t difficult for him, he says: “It was great to be my own boss at Lamp Specs, but now I also enjoy working in a large company where I have a lot more support.”

Entrepreneurs within the company

“Agile methods make it possible to go to market quickly.”

Mark Gee

OSRAM benefits from the start-up experience that Mark brings to the company. The Next Generation Sales project is ultimately about innovation, and the Brit is convinced that “we’ll need entrepreneurs for it.” Employees like him who take on the role of “internal entrepreneurs” are called “intrapreneurs.” This founding spirit within the company needs to act like a start-up, says Mark: “We use agile methods in our team. That’s a new form of cooperation at OSRAM which is very important for bringing a project to market quickly.”

Instead of working on a new platform behind closed doors and then going live with an extensive version, this project is launched in stages, with the first version being introduced as early as a few months later. “If you use agile methods, the project changes constantly,” says Mark. “You first bring out a basic version of the system to make it usable for the customer, and then they tell you what they like and what they don’t.”

Focus on the user: The new eCommerce platform addresses the needs of the customer.

Create positive experiences for the customer

Based on customer feedback, Mark’s team decides which functions are expanded or discontinued. This is how a platform is created the way the customer really wants it. “It’s really an exciting project,” says Mark. “The development of the new platform is perfect for demonstrating this new agile way of working. Who knows, maybe it will also appeal to other departments.”

For OSRAM the new web shop is part of a comprehensive digitalization strategy. Its aim is to provide greater efficiency, but also to improve the relationship with the customer. “The new online shop is not only supposed to make it easier for our customers to buy our products,” says Mark, “we also want to improve the customer experience with OSRAM, and then we’ll hopefully get positive comments from satisfied users again.”

But now Mark Gee has to go; the next team call is waiting.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

What will improve with the new e-commerce platform?
Virtually everything. From the design and search function through to order completion. Most customers use the current platform mainly to get information about prices and availability. Only very few actually place orders on it. This has to change because we want to create an attractive digital sales channel for our customers. The new system will also be data-driven. As early as the second visit, the platform can respond to the interests of the customers.

When will the new platform be launched?
The basic version will go live in early FY2020. This will be followed by a transitional phase until the end of 2021, during which the new platform will run alongside myOSRAM. From FY2022, only the new system will exist.

Can I support the project?
Anytime. OSRAM colleagues are also invited to make suggestions to develop the best possible solution for our customers. This agile way of working is based on continual feedback. Following the launch of the basic version, there will be updates from time to time so that new ideas can be implemented on an ongoing basis.