RIPPL #43: The joke is… there is no joke

Coolblue is a consumer electronics store based in The Netherlands and Belgium, mostly online-based, there are also 9 physical locations. Founded in 1999, the business had a turnover of €1.2 billion in 2017.

Coolblue announced last week that they were going to begin delivering packages by bike. The service, dubbed “CoolblueFietst” (Coolblue Cycles/Bikes) will begin running in Eindhoven and Den Haag (The Hague) before rolling out to all major Dutch and Belgian cities. The decision was taken after a testing phase at the end of 2017 in which unbranded bikes were used to deliver the packages. The company will run a fleet of Urban Arrow L’s and XL’s with mostly standard features, chosen because of the upright riding style, suspension and lockable aluminium box. The fleet will be ridden by a team of 250 delivery riders – who will all be employed with contracts and receive fixed salaries.

Coolblue’s sense of humour was reflected in the eye-catching livery -here, initial sketches and the end result are shown.
Photo credit: Urban Arrow

It’s an example of a large, mainstream business embracing cycle logistics – something that is not that common yet outside the traditional logistics industry. But why are Coolblue setting up their own service, rather than using a courier or postal service like every other online retailer? The answer is simple: control.

Control

Coolblue has worked hard to develop a quirky, approachable brand. They are well known for providing good customer service and their motto “alles voor een glimlach” (everything for a smile) is highly visible on the website. Important elements of the CoolblueFietst service offering are around trust, convenience and communication. So if Coolblue control their own delivery service, what that means is that they can also control these three important elements.

Everything for a smile. Photo credit: ANP

Next-day deliveries take place in a pre-arranged 1 hour window and customers are notified by SMS 15 minutes before the delivery. On top of this, there is a promise that no delivery will be missed; they will try to contact the customer three times on the phone or doorbell before moving on. A common complaint by customers of online retailers is issues with missed deliveries, for example staying home all day only for no package to materialise, when in fact a ‘mysterious’ delivery attempt had apparently been made. A major objective of this initiative is to eliminate this outcome. Lastly – when the delivery rider arrives on the doorstep, they will be friendly to the customer. This last element is heavily emphasised not only in the marketing for CoolblueFietst, but also on the recruitment website for the delivery workers.

Speaking of marketing, it’s a not insignificant aspect of the CoolblueFietst initiative for a business like Coolblue. Indeed, founder and CEO Pieter Zwart is keen to stress the green credentials of the scheme:

“Perhaps the best thing about CoolblueFietst: it’s green. And blue of course. Very blue”

Although using cargo bikes rather than vans will help reduce air pollution and congestion in the city, this aspect of the marketing hasn’t been as prominent as the main customer-focussed messages: trust, communication and convenience. Not surprising for a business whose bread and butter lies in this area. And because deliveries will originate from the six Coolblue stores across The Netherlands, it’s only the last-mile deliveries that will be emission-free – deliveries to the stores from the company’s warehouse in Tilburg will still be by truck.

April Fool?

CoolblueFietst was announced in a video, titled ‘The Biggest Coolblue innovation ever’, designed to make viewers believe it was an April 1st prank. Touting the initiative as a “packet friendly”, the video features delivery riders talking about the soft, comfortable interior with seatbelts for the packages, and a night-light inside so they don’t get scared in the dark. The riders are also shown becoming emotional about packages they have delivered; finding it hard to let go.

This was followed up days later with the big reveal, again by Pieter Zwart:

“De grap is dat er geen grap is. We zijn dit echt gestart.”

“The joke is that there is no joke. We are really starting this.”

It’s interesting to note that, even in supposedly the most cycling-friendly country in the world, the idea of a large business embracing cycle logistics is so far from the mainstream that it is still possible to treat it as a joke. But the fact remains that for Coolblue, the cargo bike is no joke – it’s simply the best tool for the job.

And that is perhaps the most powerful message of all.

 

Organisation: Coolblue
Sector: Voluntary
City: Eindhoven and Den Haag – later all Dutch and Belgian cities
Country: The Netherlands, Belgium
Basis: Permanent
Website: www.coolblue.nl / www.coolblue.be
Facebook: Coolblue Facebook
Twitter: @Coolblue_NL / @Coolblue_BE

Sources:
Coolblue: “Coolblue Start Eigen Bezorgservice per Fiets: CoolblueFietst” (Dutch)
Coolblue: “CoolBlue Start CoolblueFietst” (Dutch)
niewus.nl: “Coolblue brengt pakketjes rond met de fiets” (Dutch)
nu.nl: “Coolblue levert kleine pakketjes voortaan zelf per fiets af” (Dutch)
Algemeen Dagblad: “Coolblue gaat pakketjes bezorgen met de fiets” (Dutch)
Algemeen Dagblad: “Pakketjes van Coolblue per fiets bezorgd in Den Haag” (Dutch)
Marketing Tribune: “Coolblue start eigen bezorgservice per fiets” (Dutch)
Coolblue: “De grootste Coolblue-innovatie ooit” (Flemish) (‘April Fool’ Youtube video for the Belgian market)
Coolblue: “Coolblue lanceert: CoolblueFietst” (Flemish) (‘Big reveal’ Youtube video for the Belgian market)