It all began with the broken seat heating in his first car. After Teun van Leijsen opened up the seat and repaired it, he was still left wondering: "Why is this kind of heating only found in car seats?" Today, years later, the premium heating cushions and blankets from his company Stoov® are available in 4 countries and plans for further international expansion are underway. Teun van Leijsen talks about the development of a new product category, his strong international growth and the importance of Salesupply's customer service for the Stoov® brand proposition.
From B2B to B2C positioning
At first, Teun positioned Stoov® in the hospitality market as an alternative to the non-sustainable heaters. "At the height of our success, around 150-200 bars and restaurants were using our heating cushions," Teun recalls. And then something unexpected happened: "We received more and more requests from consumers who wanted to buy the cushions for their own homes. The hospitality sector, our intended target group, turned out to be the perfect marketing channel! While our customers are sitting - on our cushions - and having a nice time, they notice the Stoov® brand label and then get in contact with us. That's when we converted our products into individual rechargeable cushions and relaunched them through our webshop on the Dutch and German markets."
Building up a strong brand
Stoov has experienced considerable growth in recent years, entirely online. "We're a pure player. Along with our own site, we use marketplaces such as Amazon and Bol.com," Teun says. "Of course, besides the advantages, this also has its disadvantages. Marketplaces are not so good at conveying your branding or your story. We pay a lot of attention to our brand, the consumer experience and especially the way in which we deal with customers. Ever since day one, Stoov® has been very close to its customers, constantly staying in touch with them to evaluate the product and learn from their experiences."
Close to the customer
"We kept the customer service in-house for a long time for that very reason. We learned a lot from the customers' experiences and could respond to them straight away; customer service is a key department for Stoov®." In order to keep operating with a small team and growing as a brand, Stoov® decided to outsource all season-related activities, like fulfilment. Due to growth, they could not avoid outsourcing customer service as well. Eventually, Stoov® outsourced its customer care to Salesupply in 2020, yet the customer still remains as close as before. "Every month, we coordinate with Salesupply on a management and operational level. It is extremely important for a brand and an entrepreneur to know what is going on. It's only then that you keep a grip on the product and are able to quickly implement any improvements that are needed."
Part of the Stoov® team
Nowadays, Salesupply handles the entire first-line customer service (including Amazon) for Stoov© with native teams in the Netherlands and Germany and with a central English-speaking team based in the Netherlands. That's why it's also vital that the external customer service agents have a 'Stoov© heart'. "Knowledge of our products and our brand is really important to ensure that our customers are helped as well as they were before," Teun explains. "Along with the general training and the wiki, which we prepared together with Salesupply, we involve the agents with Stoov® quizzes and product demos. This is how we make sure that our customers feel that they are directly in contact with us."
Besides the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria, Teun is planning to quickly expand within Europe. "Given the potential entry of new competitors, branding and visibility are key. Now is the time to quickly grow cross-border, claim the market position and link Stoov© as a brand name everywhere to that feeling of warmth and comfort."