Bang & Olufsen turns up volume on digital after 'disappointing' year

High-end consumer electronics brand Bang & Olufsen is pursuing several new digital-led strategies over the next 12 months, off the back of what its CEO called a “disappointing” 2018-19.

The retailer, which has been operating on a new headless commerce architecture for the last few months, has made moves to connect its store and online systems on the same platform, and is excited about its new use of augmented reality (AR).

These new digital approaches, which will also see the implementation of click & collect via the Bang & Olufsen store network, are part of what CEO Henrik Clausen has identified as a need for the business to take more control of its brand distribution. The organisation wants to be more “retail driven”, as opposed to relying on wholesale partnerships.

“It has been a disappointing year for Bang & Olufsen,” Clausen explained, who expects to achieve profitable growth in the current financial year.

“Our unsatisfactory results were primarily due to difficulties related to the transition of our sales and distribution network and fewer product launches compared to last year.”

He added: “Despite those challenges, we are still a profitable business, which underlines that we've come a long way in our transformation, though we still have a great deal of work ahead of us.”

The new platform, which has been used to run the business since the spring, is supported by Commercetools, which operates a flexible microservices model. This means the user interface applications are separated from the commerce engine, allowing for users to embed a variety of additional software tools with an API approach.

Bang & Olufsen is using React for its front-end technology, while Contentful is the chosen content management system. Systems integrator and consultancy Kruso oversaw the project for the retailer.

The AR tool, which is used by staff in Bang & Olufsen stores or during visits to customers' homes, enables shoppers to see what products would look like in their property or to get clarification over colour and finish.

Simon Silva, global retail experience manager at the retailer, said: “Getting 3D versions of products made is a crucial step for retailers.”

He added that once Apple released a standardised version of its USDZ files, Bang & Olufsen had its top products available on the website in that format within days. Silva said focusing on AR and 3D modelling helps give customers “certainty they are buying the right thing”.

“We are not massive market, so the lifeblood of our company is people who fall in love with our brand.”

According to the annual report released this week, Bang & Olufsen generated revenue of DKK2.8 billion (£346.5 million) in 2018-19, which was down by 13.6% year on year. Net earnings were DKK19 million.

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