Sofology and Bloomreach: A One Year Retrospective (How to Get the Most Out of Bloomreach)
By Jordan Torpy
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 Bloomreach, 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. Sofology agreed to sit down with us and share how it has been working with Bloomreach after the honeymoon period was over.
To Start Off, Could You Give Us a Little Bit of Background on Sofology?
Sofology’s mission is to help 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 realized 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 personalization was something that was really important for us — we wanted to be able to help customers recognize the value of the product we sell. Our 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 our stores, 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 Bloomreach 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 Bloomreach, the level of attention to detail was second to none. It was clear Bloomreach understood what was required and was ready to dive into the details right away.
Bloomreach stood out from the start — everyone we worked with 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 Bloomreach made it easy to show “look, here’s what we can do, here’s what’s possible.”
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 Bloomreach wouldn’t just fall off the radar after the deal was over.
The level of authenticity from the Bloomreach team couldn’t have been anything other than genuine. That really made Bloomreach 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 Bloomreach, we managed all our campaigns from Bloomreach, 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 inside our stores.
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 Bloomreach 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 offline, and we also did work related to the General Data Protection Regulation (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 Bloomreach 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 Bloomreach made it easier.
How Big is the Team That Uses Bloomreach? How is it Set Up?
We have three true Bloomreach power users that use the platform every day. Then we have around 15 other Bloomreach users in e-commerce and marketing, analytics, customer service, and supply chain. They don’t need Bloomreach for their jobs, but it’s easy for them to use and makes their lives a little easier.
Our customer service people love to use Bloomreach. 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 Bloomreach’s geo analysis when we are scoping new locations for retail stores.
What Kind of Value have You Seen with Bloomreach?
We started to see value in our first month of cooperation by discovering new leads.
When customers come into the store, they can create an account on a tablet we provide. Then we can recognize existing customers or create a new customer profile thanks to the single customer view. Our previous system wasn’t able to correctly identify customers' behavior to their profiles — one person’s behavior would get attached to a different customer’s profile. Everything was mixed up.
Bloomreach made it possible for us to accurately match customers' behavior 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.
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 Bloomreach, we can easily see all the customers that have looked at that product, favorited 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 Bloomreach and Bloomreach made it very easy to execute. And building the campaign and reporting on it was extremely easy.
We also use Bloomreach’s CRO Solution very often, since it helps us create personalized experiences quickly without needing to rely on IT.
Bloomreach always speeds up our internal conversations, and it’s common to hear “we’ll see if Bloomreach can do that”.
How has it Been Working with Bloomreach After the Integration Process?
We’ve worked with multiple people across Bloomreach: 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 center support, Bloomreach stands out by a mile. There’s a real rapport, a human connection. Customer love runs through everyone that works at Bloomreach, and no one will leave you hanging. They’re happy when you’re happy.
Does Sofology have Any Future Plans for How to Use Bloomreach?
Definitely more integrations to help strengthen the position we’ve been forced into now by COVID-19. We’ve got an opportunity to show how important e-commerce 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 Bloomreach. It’s a question we ask for all new integrations: can we make it work with Bloomreach?
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 COVID-19 Crisis?
We had to update our website as soon as possible, since deliveries have been delayed. We used Bloomreach 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 Favorites” that gives a categorization 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, Bloomreach 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 it was actually looking for a technology provider for the larger group. In the beginning, DFS Group thought it just wanted an emailing tool. But I introduced Bloomreach, and was able to show them the versatility and power of Bloomreach compared to just an ESP or even a standalone CDP.
Bloomreach was able to do more than what DFS was looking for in the beginning, but it was a future-proof platform that could grow with needs. Once they saw the speed and ease of use of the platform, it was an easy choice. Now Bloomreach is used by all the brands in the DFS Group.
It was definitely the right decision. Bloomreach has been — and continues to be — excellent to work with.