"El Corte Ingles" and the customer research


This week we just leaned that according to Nielsen, "El Corte Inglés" was the #1 visited e-commerce site n Spain, ahead from eBay.es and Amazon.es. For the readers who don't know it, "El Corte Ingles" is the absolute leader in department stores in Spain, just like Macy's or Harrod's in their countries. "El Corte Ingles" is 70 years old but has a very strong and loyal customer.

One of the keys of it's decades-lasting success is the added value offered, including no-questions refund policy,  great customer treatment and a loyalty card which allows to buy without credit and pay by instalments.

So the question is ¿how is it possible that this 70 old-fashioned stores are having more visits than online champions like Amazon and eBay?. The answer is pretty simple: Customer research. They know their customer and they do know the Spanish customer.

Lets take a deeper look.

Home Page: Value, value, value, deep scent and some more added value

When we enter in "El Corte Ingles" home page, we find 3 UVP (unique value propositions) which aim to solve the Bryan's Eisenberg WIIFM question.

Let's translate them for you:

  1. 24h delivery: If you are in the States it may sound "non-unique" value proposition, but in Spain 24h delivery is not that normal.
  2. Pick up in-store and bring back in-store: This is crucial for them as their core target is not used to online shopping: No delivery's issues, no doubts, no fears, no shipping costs or surprises... They use they stores network to gain customer confidence and pace f mind. If they don't like the stuff bought, they can just go to the nearest store and give it back with instant refund.
  3. Opencor's pick up for 1€: Opencor is a largest network of 24h stores which allows the customer pick up their assets even nearer. Another measure of trust.

Our task a CRO experts is not to copy this UVP's (it's nosense and well... if you don't have stores in every Spanish city it can be a problem to offer in-store-pick-up). Our task is to understand our customer's FUD's, motivations and expectatives. Each company has it's own reality and our job is to find out ours.

¿How "El Corte Ingles" does it?

As they always did: Customer research, but adapting their techniques to the Online Channel.

A fake "El corte ingles" ad
A fake "El corte ingles" ad

One of the tools they use is Online surveying.

The Online/Onsite "El Corte Ingles" Survey

After some clicks we'll be prompted to fill a small questionnaire once our visit is over.

At step 1 we are welcomed encouraged to wait until our visit puropose is complete before answering the form. It's very normal that the business manager is worried about "surveys" distracting or visits from buying, and it's something we must always keep on mind.

Just after, we are asked for visit purpose (one of the KEY metrics every site should have) and task completion.

This question may look like a NPS but the question is "Tell us the effort needed to achieve your goal in this visit".

¿Is it an UX metric?. Knowing their target Usability becomes a critical issue for them.

Next question: ¿Did you buy today? This question may look stupid to some, but it's crucial to be a cutting question used for analysis segmentation.

My guess here is that the survey designers want to meassure satisfacion and effort segmented by Buyers vs Non Buyers, and find demographic patterns that allow them to convert non buyers in to never-ending-hapiness customers (and lolly pops and so on.... Our job isn't just great?).

This is the demographic step which allows us to discover the segmentation criteria used by El Corte Ingles responsible's. Again, their core target is "department store" client, over 40's, not so used to technology, so the first question here is: What's your internet usage skill? Beginner | Average | Expert. Then age and sex are asked. ¿Will they have co-relation between internet-usage skill and age?

At last but not least, satisfaction is asked via NPS (Net promoter score).

As summary, what can we learn from "El Corte Ingles"? Probably not much about UX or Design, but a lot about using user research as the key of their success.

Matching online the experience their customers have Offline (not only with message Consistancy, but "Service" Consistancy) allows them to be competitive in a scneario (Online) where they are the new players.

This is a demonstration that both online and offline, the customer remains the same, and the opportunity for us as Web Analyst's, CRO's or marketers is to apply the technology the online brings us, to improve solving the old offline customer needs.