Kingfisher digital boss: stores at centre of eCommerce acceleration plans

B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher has accelerated its eCommerce plans since the onset of Covid-19, but stores will be at the centre of this digitised strategy, according to the DIY retail group’s JJ Van Oosten.

Van Oosten, who joined the business at the start of the year as chief customer & digital officer, and has set about building his team and growing eCommerce as a percentage of total sales, said DIY projects “will always be more than just a financial transaction on a website or mobile phone”.

In a statement on the group’s website, in the wake of his appearance on a Financial Times webinar looking at how physical and digital retail can work better together, he said the coronavirus crisis prompted a shift in thinking for the retail chain.

“Whilst our eCommerce activity grew exponentially, far from rendering physical stores obsolete, we have seen first-hand how our stores have become more integral to our business, not less,” he commented.

“As the seriousness of the pandemic grew and moved swiftly towards Europe, I remember having conversations at Kingfisher about our future eCommerce plans and whether our stores were going to be assets or liabilities to them. For me, they are 100% assets: located close to our customers, they are in the right places to serve them either physically, or digitally – as picking, collecting and delivery hubs – no matter where the financial transaction takes place.”

Van Oosten added that the Covid-19 landscape became an “unexpected testbed" for future plans, enabling the business to roll out initiatives before they were "perfect".

Its shops became micro-fulfilment centres or ‘dark stores’ from which online orders were picked for click & collect and home deliveries. The company sold bedding plants online for the first time, too.

Online sales at Kingfisher grew four-fold from mid-March, while in the last week of June alone the company took 1.5 million online orders.

And while the group implemented online design consultations for kitchens and bathrooms, Van Oosten said the business is aware not all customers are comfortable with this method of interaction.

“For the emotional side of home improvement, where our customers need our stores, we will be there for them,” he added.