Change Culture is the Best Crisis Manager

22 Jun, 2021
by Vera Vaubel
Sara Volkmer and Tim Böker

The will to change, speed, team spirit and customer-centricity are key factors for the successful development of companies. ROSE Bikes have known this for a long time. Sara Volkmer, Director E-Business and Tim Böker, Director Retail, explain how a change mindset that has been practiced for decades at ROSE Bikes got the company through the pandemic. And why collaboration between retailers helps the industry move forward

When the pandemic hit, were you worried about the future of ROSE Bikes?

Sara: When all our stores had to close in March 2020, it hit us hard. It's true that ROSE Bikes is an online-first omnichannel company whose main sales avenue is the Internet. However, direct customer contact is also important for our business, because to make a purchase with confidence, some people still need individual advice or a test ride. Closed stores therefore also meant a high sales risk for us. 

Tim: We had to think about how ROSE Bikes could continue to offer its services with the shop doors closed. And since we didn't want to come out of the pandemic with huge losses, we had to come up with something new!

What was your solution?

Sara: We worked out measures in a cross-departmental team and found digital ways to offer customers advice. Within three days, we switched to video consulting services via FaceTime and WhatsApp. We even launched a new bike via Instagram Live, as an initial test for live shopping formats.

Tim: The second step was finding a solution for the missing test ride. To take the bikes to the customers, we simply rode them ourselves – throughout North Rhine-Westphalia and within a radius of 100km around our Munich and Berlin stores. We quickly noticed that cycling was becoming a new passion for many people during the crisis, so demand was high. That's why we opened a pop-up store in a closed travel agency in Münster and Meilen on Lake Zurich, as well as launching new stationary co-operations, e.g. with Engelhorn in Mannheim. 

How did customers react to these new shopping formats?

Tim: They were grateful that we were still there for them and excited about ROSE@Home – not just because they could test out the product, but mainly because they saw that we were ready to make anything possible for the customer. Ultimately, this deepened our bond and conversion rates were between 80 and 90 percent! In fact, we managed to offset 62 percent of planned stationary sales through ROSE@Home and video consulting.

During the crisis, speed was of the essence. And now, fast-changing trends and consumer expectations still require retailers to react quickly. How do companies manage to stay on the ball?

Sara: ROSE Bikes has reinvented itself many times in the course of its existence: founded in 1907 as a small retail store, it has since grown into a large mail-order company with its own brand for bikes, parts, clothing and accessories. Then came the first webshop in 2005, with a physical base in Bocholt called BIKETOWN. Currently, we are in the process of expanding our stationary network of stores. Of course, this enduring willingness to change is not unique to ROSE Bikes– other companies are just as rich in tradition, and have maintained their success throughout a similarly eventful biography.  

Tim: The crucial difference today is that change cycles are becoming shorter. Most recently, the pandemic has shown that the ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions can be life-saving. And that's where it helps to draw inspiration from others. Sharing ideas with other retailers give us courage, opens up new perspectives and prevents unnecessary mistakes that others have already made.

Building a change culture is also a matter of leadership. What tips can you give other companies that want to be more open to change in the future?

Sara: It's not about leadership coming up with something new and the team executing it. Change impulses should be multi-directional: They can come from leadership, the team, maybe even from competitors or companies outside your industry. And– from the customer! In fact, we put the customer’s desires first here, which makes each decision very easy, because if a change follows user needs, it’s clearly justified. This approach also plays an important role in motivating the team and encourages their readiness for change.

Tim: Accepting mistakes is also important. As a leader, it's important to understand that when something doesn’t work it’s not a mistake, but a learning opportunity. In this respect, I believe that the crisis has changed entire corporate cultures – for the better, I would say.

Are there ways to implement change faster?

Tim: We learned even before the pandemic that rapid change works best if you follow the motto "Test - Learn - Build Bigger." Of course, we always start by thinking carefully about what we are doing and what we want to achieve with it – and we also evaluate the result very carefully based on solid numbers. In March 202, market conditions changed more rapidly and drastically than ever before. There was no time to second-guess your decisions, and no one knew what would work in this situation. It was all about courage, trust, teamwork and optimism. 

Tim, you mentioned earlier that in difficult situations, it's helpful to exchange ideas with other retailers. You are a co-founder of the "Retailers Helping Retailers" initiative. What lessons have you learned from this?

Tim: The Corona crisis brought the retail industry together, and the “Retailers Helping Retailers” initiative provided a platform for vivacious conversation on current topics such as Corona relief, but also on best practices for retailers. Finally! Because while it is completely normal in Silicon Valley, for example, for competing companies to share their experiences, this is not an established practice in Germany. Yet cooperation is enriching for all sides and helps everyone grow. In terms of remote culture or live shopping, for example, we have been able to learn so much from others.

Which Corona-time practices should stay after the crisis, and what to-dos are on your agenda?

Sara: Our way of working has become even more holistic during the pandemic. Not only have we shortened the cycles for exchange between retailers, but we are also working specifically on our topics in cross-departmental teams. This was important, for example, to be able to offer the best possible range for our customers given the change in demand during the lockdown, through close coordination between purchasing and sales. So this experience has been very valuable to us and we will maintain and expand this way of working. We will also push channel links even further.

Tim: It's also important to me to continue to be closely connected to the retail industry, to advance topics and to find solutions together. We want to allow everyone to swap ideas intensively, regardless of the industry and the type of company. And be customer-centric; the customer must be at the center of all activities!

Curaze

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