How Standaard Boekhandel boosted its retail resilience

Jul 06, 2022
  • sales & marketing
  • retail
  • Sitecore
  • data

Combining digital prowess with compelling in-store experiences, Standaard Boekhandel’s approach to omnichannel has its competitors – both online and offline – reeling. The retailer’s digital transformation, which started in 2017 and is continuously being optimized ever since, is a clear example of the advantages of long-term thinking. At its core: a powerful content management tool, a state-of-the-art e-commerce platform, and a tight-knit partnership with delaware – all of which proved their worth when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Holding ground

In Belgium, Standaard Boekhandel’s owl icon is a familiar sight in many city centers. The chain has approximately 150 stores. While primarily known for its impressive book offering, the company has been verging into other products, such as stationary, music, games, cards and more, for a while now and also owns the French-Walloon retail chain Club. 

In order to hold its ground among fierce competition and cater to the needs of a wide array of customers, Standaard Boekhandel decided in 2017 to implement a digital platform that could serve as the backbone for an omnichannel shopping experience. “Customers expect a personal approach, fast delivery, and an intuitive experience,” explains IT director Jo Van Den Bogaert. “To meet those expectations we needed to radically rethink our digital infrastructure and way of working, which was very standardized at the time. And we needed to it quickly.”

In it for the long run

To translate its vision into reality, the company soon got in touch with delaware. Initially, the project scope was setting up a digital platform (Sitecore), an order-processing system (Virto Commerce), and cash register integration. The system had to be able to contain all 14 million products and is equipped with a search API –, and an Azure cloud environment. 

“More important than the technicalities, however, was the fact that we were looking for a partner for the long-term,” Jo adds. “We knew that becoming future-proof wouldn’t be a one-time thing, but an ongoing endeavour. So we had to be sure we had the right team from the get-go.” 

Golden record

In alignment with Standaard Boekhandel’s corporate identity, the delaware team developed an intuitive user interface that would allow visitors to easily navigate the site. Jo: “We also developed a completely customized Master Data Management system to bundle all the products’ source data efficiently. This is really key to our online customer experience. We often get our product data from multiple suppliers. Of course, all of them have their own specific ways of inputting data like images, author names, genres, etc. By merging these data, we can create a so-called ‘golden record’. This allows users to quickly find what they are looking for.”

Going viral

The ability to process orders easily also proved to be essential for Standaard Boekhandel. “Initially, we got about 1,000 online orders per day,” says Jo. “At the same time, we also wanted to keep drawing people to our brick-and-mortar stores by offering the possibility to pick up most orders within 30 minutes.” 

But in March 2020, just months after the initial go live, the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing millions of people to stay home. “With visiting physical stores no longer an option, we saw our online orders triple overnight. Here’s the best part though: initially, we didn’t even really notice it. The new system was perfectly capable of handling this new influx. Furthermore, the way it was set up by delaware allowed us to change things like opening hours and order pickup information on the website really quickly, without any help from delaware. This made everything very clear for our customers as well.”

An ongoing journey

In June 2022, the shared journey between Standaard Boekhandel and delaware is far from over. “Improving customer experiences online – and now offline again as well – is a continuous journey,” says Jo. “Next to general support services, the delaware team helps us with the implementation of new features, both visible and invisible, and the optimization of our data structure. We also hold regular status calls. But what I like most about our collaboration is how no-nonsense it is. For most questions, Joost, our IT product owner customer-facing platforms can just reach out to our contacts Pieter Jan and Stijn and they will help out immediately.”

In the near future, Standaard Boekhandel wants to expand its vision on customer experience to the B2B market as well. Jo: “We first focused on the B2C front end. Now we’re exploring B2B front end and back end as well. We’re also exploring ways to find connections between data with machine learning: a feature that would help customers to find interesting products more easily. All in all, this project is a great example of how a one-off project can evolve into a lasting partnership.”

how to build an omnichannel experience