Welkoop takes big steps toward store of the future

Welkoop is making significant progress in IT. Not only performance indicators, but also feedback from the store floor shows that satisfaction with store automation is increasing. Now that the basics are in order, IT manager Tim Holweg can spar with Simac about the store of the future. "Ideally, I would like to hang a few stores full of smart cameras," he says.

A renewed formula with more color, more atmosphere, more experience and more choice. It was with this in mind that Welkoop began the conversion of all 160 stores last year. "At the start there were great concerns internally about this huge operation, but now it is running like clockwork. We no longer have to worry about it," says IT manager Tim Holweg of the chain of stores selling everything for garden and animal.

Welkoop has had to slow down the pace somewhat. Due to challenges in construction and planning, three weeks instead of two are now allocated for each store. "So that has nothing to do with store automation and Simac's work," Tim emphasizes.

"On the contrary, Simac appointed a new project manager who tightened the reins. He sketched out the process, made agreements and set up checkpoints. Since then, the rollout has been running like clockwork," knows Tim, who notes that the revamped formula is catching on. "We see that it is appealing to a younger audience. And after re-opening each store, we are seeing an increase in sales."

Welkoop Apeldoorn

Pin failure

With Simac, Welkoop has found a partner who not only takes care of the conversion, but also of the management and maintenance of both the network and the hardware. By bringing that package to one partner, Tim's IT team can concentrate on executing the strategy. "We want a partner who thinks with us and relieves us. Take as an example the nationwide PIN failure on Aug. 3, which prevented our customers from making PIN payments for a few hours. That resulted in significantly lower sales that day, which we can't really afford. We are now working with Simac to find a PDA that will allow us to launch an always-on strategy in our stores."

"With the arrival of Simac, the service has improved a lot," Tim notes. By defining simple steps and standard communication moments, we managed to reduce the turnaround time of changes from 20 to 5 working days. "Those are nice improvements," says Tim. 


"With the Simac Remote Management Suite, we can see exactly which stores are online and which incidents have been reported. Via laptop or phone we can see the status of open changes. This used to be a black box, but now we can actively manage it. And if Simac soon adds lifecycle management, we can even see when which hardware is due for replacement."


The question is what users in the store notice about the improved service. In order to manage this, Welkoop has concluded an Xperience Level Agreement (XLA) with Simac. Part of this is a recurring satisfaction survey among Welkoop employees. The first survey last year showed that there was a lot of dissatisfaction on the store floor about the store automation. This led to the decision to replace the network and hardware in the stores including all peripherals such as hand scanners, printers and pinter terminals.

Welkoop Apeldoorn

"We recently sent out a new questionnaire. The first results show that satisfaction has improved. We see that stores are reporting far fewer problems and breakdowns, despite the fact that we are putting more and more hardware in the stores."

After Jumbo, Welkoop is the second Simac customer to enter the XLA process. The reason is simple, states Tim:

"When things go well in the store, everyone goes well. Because everything comes together in the store, from new ideas from the service office to customer complaints. The store is also where we still make the most money. We knew that our store employees were dissatisfied. By measuring dissatisfaction, we learn what is and isn't going well. That helps us to continuously improve."

With XLA, Jumbo and Simac put the IT customer first

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When completing the questionnaires, employees can indicate what problems they are experiencing. If possible, even more important than those questionnaires is the follow-up round that follows. "Then it turns out that employees have misinterpreted the question. Or that they indicate they have a network failure, when in reality the telephony is the problem. Calling back helps identify the real problem. An additional advantage is that people feel heard," Tim explains.

''We can now see exactly which stores are online and which incidents have been reported.''

Tim Holweg - IT-manager at Welkoop

After that, it is a matter of actually addressing the reported problems. That has already led to several improvement actions. "We discovered software bugs that we immediately passed on to the POS system supplier. We adjusted the processes so that stores now receive advance notice when a service engineer from Simac is coming to visit."

Store of the future

When it comes to innovation, Tim also calls on the people at Simac. Together, they spar about the store of the future and the new technologies needed to do so. "We see that both employees and customers are digitizing more and more. The question is how those two digital worlds come together in the store. Perhaps we need to provide our employees with tools that allow them to provide even better service and advice."

Simac builds the store of the future with customers

Read the blog here

One development that can offer great benefits is shop analytics. Using smart cameras and other technologies, it is possible to collect a wealth of data on customers' walking routes and viewing behavior. Facial recognition makes it possible to detect how old and how happy customers are. "If we know which customers are walking the floor, we can adjust the digital content on the screens and entice them to make different purchases."

Now that the basics are in place as far as store automation is concerned, Welkoop can afford to think about these kinds of new technologies. 

"In the end, it's just a matter of testing. Ideally, I would hang some smart cameras in a few real stores and see what happens. If we can collect relevant data in a few stores, that will give a lot of new, valuable insights that are important for the whole of Welkoop."

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Tim Holweg Welkoop Retail