Companies love to share news about new partnerships. But it’s less common to hear how those relationships are doing after some time has passed. At Exponea, our clients aren’t just customers – they’re valued partners, and we’re committed to their success. But it’s one thing to say that, and another thing to actually live it.
That’s why we decided to check in with one of our clients after we passed the one-year mark with them. Sofology agreed to sit down with us and share how they felt about working with Exponea after the honeymoon period was over.
Nicola Cottrell, Head of CRM at Sofology, is an Exponea power user. She kindly offered to share what it’s been like to work both the Exponea the product and Exponea the team.
Take a look at a video Exponea made with Sofology and Nicola when the partnership was just starting. See how it all started.
To start off, could you give us a little bit of background on Sofology?
Sofology’s mission is to help their customers feel at home on a sofa they love. We sell a variety of sofas, chairs, recliners, and accessories through a network of over 40 retail stores in the UK and our online site.
We’re part of the DFS group and Sofology itself has an annual turnover of £260 million.
What prompted you to turn to the market in the first place?
I had recently joined Sofology and wanted to understand everything we had in place: what were we doing, what was working, and what more we could get out of existing programs and processes.
I soon realised that things weren’t working that well. We gave our existing technology partner a chance to change, but there was a bit of misalignment with our goals. So we went to market to find an alternative solution.
We put together a list of requirements based on where we were at the time and where we wanted to get to. We knew that personalisation was something that was really important for us – we wanted to be able to help customers recognise the value of the product we sell. The average order value is quite high, so it’s a big investment for most customers. It’s part of their home, it’s a highly considered purchase. We wanted the customer journey to reflect that, and we needed a partner that could help us get there.
We wanted a partner that believed in what we wanted to achieve, and that was capable of delivering on what we needed.
We also needed a vendor that could manage a sophisticated integration. We have a very strong relationship between our offline leads and online activities and we needed a vendor that could manage that connection.
The majority of our leads are generated in-store, where customers can create an account while they’re at the shop. We needed to connect this to the online experience, and this had been difficult to do in the past.
You had a relatively big shortlist (13 providers), what about Exponea stood out to you?
Like I mentioned before, we needed to find a vendor that could nail the online-offline connection, and that requires a good level of sophistication.
When we started speaking with Exponea, their level of attention to detail was second to none. It was clear they understood what was required and were ready to dive into the details right away.
Exponea stood out from the start – they understand the value of a good relationship, and I continue to see that today.
As the Head of CRM, it’s always a big risk to say “we need to migrate.” There’s a financial risk, and you also need to get buy-in from all the different stakeholders and people you work with. CRM can seem like a dark art, and Exponea made it easy to show “look, here’s what we can do, here’s what’s possible.”
Further reading: How to choose a customer data platform (CDP)
The total review process took about four months. During that process we met the team that would be working with us after we picked a vendor, which showed us that Exponea wouldn’t just fall off the radar after the deal was over.
The level of authenticity from the Exponea team couldn’t have been anything other than genuine. That really made them stand out during the selection process.
After you signed on, what was the integration process like? How long did it take?
It was thirteen weeks and four days for a full integration, meaning all our data sources were connected to Exponea, we managed all our campaigns from Exponea, our IPs were fully warmed up, and our team was trained and able to use the platform. It was a fairly complex integration, since 90% of our leads come from in-store.
We needed to set up eleven different use cases, all with unique dependencies. It was very complex, but the speed of the integration was just incredible, and the implementation consultants were absolutely fantastic.
It wasn’t just integration, but also training for our end users on how to use the platform. We did the Exponea Academy training which helped enable us to get the most out of our platform.
We also did a complete migration of our data and our customer consents. We built a bespoke customer preference centre that was available online and in-store, and we also did work related to GDPR.
On top of that, we integrated paid social, Google Ads, switched over all our transactional communications, set up multichannel campaigns and a customer activation campaign.
The Exponea team was with us every step of the way. When we needed to set up a bespoke SMS integration, I remember someone from the team taking care of it on a video call quickly and professionally. It was a lot of work, but Exponea made it easier.
How big is the team that uses Exponea? How is it set up?
We have three true Exponea power users that use the platform every day. Then we have around 15 other Exponea users in ecommerce and marketing, analytics, customer service, and supply chain. They don’t need Exponea for their job, but it’s easy for them to use and makes their lives a little easier.
Customer service loves to use Exponea. They can use it to see what kind of communications a customer has received, which adds a lot of helpful context to their conversations and gives the team a good amount of confidence. It makes it easy to be fair and transparent with the customers.
We even use Exponea’s geo-analysis when we are scoping new locations for retail stores.
What kind of value have you seen with Exponea?
We started to see value in our first month of cooperation by discovering new leads.
When a customer comes into the store, they can create an account on a tablet we provide. Then we can recognise existing customers or create a new customer profile (single customer view). Our previous system wasn’t able to correctly identify a customer’s behaviour to their profile: one person’s behaviour would get attached to a different customer’s profile. Everything was mixed up.
Exponea made it possible for us to accurately match a customer’s behaviour to their profile, which we then used to contact customers who had abandoned their baskets. This resulted in £300,000 worth of new leads in one month.
Beyond that, we’ve seen a drop in unsubscribe rates, an improvement in open rates (from 22% to 26%), and click rate (from 4.5% to 6%), which we attribute to a better understanding of our customers. We’ve also had massive benefits from a time and resource point of view.
Further reading: Ultimate guide to mastering email deliverability
We did an interesting quick stock campaign. Quick stock is product that’s been ordered and delivered to a home, but the customer has rejected it or changed their mind. We then need to find another buyer for the product.
Using Exponea, we can easily see all the customers that have looked at that product, favourited that range, or have added it to their cart but not purchased it. Then we can send a message to them letting them know we have it on sale.
We would have never been able to do that before Exponea, but Exponea made it very easy to execute. And building the campaign and reporting on it was extremely easy.
We also use Exponea’s CRO Solution (Experiments and Website Overlays) very often, since it helps us create personalised experiences quickly without needing to rely on IT.
Exponea always speeds up our internal conversations, and it’s common to hear “we’ll see if Exponea can do that”.
How has it been working with Exponea after the integration process?
We’ve worked with multiple people across Exponea: success managers, consultants, support. Across the board, everyone has an extremely helpful attitude. Even the chat support on the web is invaluable. When I have a small little problem, I know I can send it their way and they’ll be able to help.
It never feels like I’m talking to a robot. All the conversations always have context, the team understands our history and where we’re coming from, and they want us to succeed. They know the right questions to ask and how to get the most important information.
When I compare the experience to typical call centre support, Exponea stands out by a mile. There’s a real rapport, a human connection. Customer love runs through everyone that works at Exponea, and no one will leave you hanging. They’re happy when you’re happy.
Does Sofology have any future plans for how to use Exponea?
Definitely more integrations to help strengthen the position we’ve been forced into now by coronavirus. We’ve got an opportunity to show how important ecommerce channels are to the retail side, and we’ve got possibilities to develop there.
We’re going to develop interactive brochures, an online appointment system, and shipment tracking (that will tell you the exact stage of sofa production), and all of those will be integrated with Exponea. It’s a question we ask for all new integrations: can we make it work with Exponea?
All future projects are focused on one goal: making sure that the customer journey reflects the value and importance of the product they’ve purchased.
How have you reacted to the coronavirus crisis?
We had to update our website as soon as possible, since deliveries have been delayed. We used Exponea to quickly change all our communications and make sure customers understood what was changing and knew what was going on.
From a shopping perspective, customers are still buying online. So we’ve set up a feature that lets customers speak to a Sofology specialist that has access to a store and can answer any questions.
We’ve also introduced a concept called “Comfort Favourites” that gives a categorisation of the comfort level of a sofa – while it’s not exactly the same as the in-store experience, it helps give customers an idea of what to expect from what they’re buying.
In general Exponea made it possible to react quickly and make necessary changes on our site, which is helping us during these times.
Do you have any advice for other companies looking for a CDP?
Take note of how invested the potential partner is in your objectives. How many people do you get to meet in the team? What level of detail are they willing to go into? What kind of support will you get both during the integration and afterwards?
You need to delve into what comes after the contract is signed, and make sure the partner you’re going to work with is as invested in your achievements as you are.
Sofology is now part of the DFS Group, and they were actually looking for a technology provider for the larger group. In the beginning, they thought they just wanted an emailing tool. But I introduced them to Exponea, and was able to show them the versatility and power of Exponea compared to just an ESP or even a standalone CDP.
Exponea was able to do more than what they were looking for in the beginning, but it was a future-proof platform that could grow with their needs. Once they saw the speed and ease of use of the platform, they were sold. Now Exponea is used by all the brands in the DFS Group.
It was definitely the right decision. Exponea has been – and continues to be – excellent to work with.
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