To do this, the IT boss first contracted T-Systems to upgrade all stores nationwide with fiber optics and WiFi, ensure broadband and availability in every corner of each store, and switch all stores to AllIP along the way. “This way,” Fries reckoned not without pride, “we’re the first corporation in the country to implement this so consistently. We defined the concept for Germany, it’s now being exported to Luxembourg and tomorrow or the day after, if you will, anywhere in Europe.” That is how easy scaling can be. “We still sweated some things along the way,” reminisced Thomas Petry, Key Account Manager for Globus Baumarkt at T-Systems. This is because the T-Systems team had just 18 months to roll up its sleeves and revamp Globus Baumarkt’s entire infrastructure.
Today, the registers, the phones, the Internet, the WiFi, etc. – in every Globus Baumarkt – are all connected to an MPLS backbone via fiber optics. Instead of using their own phone lines, the stores use a central telephone system by Cisco to which all stores were connected via their local area codes with which customers were already familiar. “Just an MPLS data connection, all phone numbers imported, all copper cables completely cut,” summarized Fries of what had impressed him: “How T-Systems kept that incredibly tight window and how every store switchover, the entire rollout happened without any disruption.” So much for how both foundation and framework are needed for a voyage into the world of digitization. And how was T-Systems chosen?
The subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, Fries explained, has been a strategic partner of Globus Baumarkt for several years. Cloudbased service management models, security and cyber defense solutions, or German data protection standards are ongoing topics. “But the real reason,” according to Fries, “has an entirely different component: If I’m going to embrace the future, I’m going to turn to someone who knows their stuff.”
To Fries and Lehmann, it is essential that this digitization voyage emanates from the customer. “When it comes to establishing the ‘DIY Store of the Future’, what’s important to us is that the customer comes first. This is a very crucial factor.” Whether augmented reality glasses, cute little robots to guide customers around if desired, or interactive TV screens for informational videos – every decision on whether something is use ful, not yet useful, or not useful at all follows the answer to two questions at Globus Baumarkt: How is it today? And how will it likely be in five years? Add to this the things that seem to have been around for years already. Fries considers digital price tags as “just one example. They used to be really pixelated, lowcontrast, hard to read. Today, the technology is mature, and the image quality is so good, not least thanks to better cables, that you can barely distinguish a digital price tag from a paper one.”
At its core, Fries sees his role as IT Director thusly: “To create a shopping experience of the future out of many existing and still to be expected mosaic stones. And, for example, to use artificial intelligence or machine learning to take administrative tasks off our employees’ backs and to use technology that frees up resources for customer service.” When walking through the store, going around a corner, Fries already had an example to show: “Here we see one of more than 50 TVs in the store that used to have to be turned on every morning by an employee. Then, the flash drive with the video would vanish, a replacement would have to be ordered, every supplier had its own screen, yadda yadda yadda… Today, all of that is done with the push of a button and every error message is immediately logged.”
Freeing up employees in this manner is important to the IT Chief. This is because Fries already knows how the Globus Baumarkt of 2025 will look compared to the one of today. “There’ll be a bit of technology, but primarily it’ll be what sets us apart already today: our employees, the quality of their service, friendliness, helpfulness, and expertise.” The benchmark set for this is extremely high and Globus – as one almost “naturally” wants to say when standing in a DIY store – did it itself. According to wellknown customer surveys, such as the Kundenmonitor Deutschland and the study by Dähne, a publisher specializing in DIY, Globus Baumarkt is regularly chosen as the most customerfriendly DIY company in Germany. To maintain this position, “we try out a lot of things,” especially in Saarlouis, “to see what our customers think.” Tested, improved upon, or discarded.
For example, VR glasses for virtually combining different bathroom designs have proven too cumbersome for customers: They take too much time to learn how to use them, each pair of glasses needs to be individually calibrated, and there are unresolved insurance issues should a customer stumble and break them – Globus Baumarkt goes down the list, item by item, of arguments against using presumed innovations at this time. Or in favor of using them. For example, Globus Baumarkt is absolutely using special glasses to track the eye movements of selected customers for market research purposes. Questions such as where does it make sense to hang placards and where are they not even noticed, or questions about warehouse stock and its availability can be quickly answered in this way.
Take robots, for example: Equipped with a navigation system, they can guide customers to specific lines or shelves they want to see. That was very nice the first time and was fun for children but was not suitable for everyday business “as things stand today.” Nevertheless, according to Fries, “It’s important to keep an eye on their development. Losing track of them could be devastating.”
“When it now comes to setting up the ‘DIY market of the future,’ for us it’s about: customer first.”
Other developments, on the other hand, could pick up steam faster. Electric transporters, for example, that Globus Baumarkt customers can book online in advance to transport particularly heavy purchases. But what happens when the decision to buy is held up because the customer has questions at the shelf that are unanswered? Customer service representatives can already use a portable data terminal to not only check availability but also to give customers advice. These PDTs can make calls and send emails, both edit and send images, and are also connected to the Globus Baumarkt online store, where specialists can submit orders and initiate shipment should a customer want six lawn chairs but there are only five in the store. Overall, the online channel has become tremendously important even for the DIY sector. The company logs more than 30,000 visitors to the online store every day, including the Click&Collect area, where buyers can pick up their items at a store of their choice within four hours.
“The customers at our store are switching more between shopping in person and shopping online,” explained Fries. “But online shopping also has its limits in the DIY sector. The ninth roll of wallpaper – because eight wasn’t enough – the customer buys online. But the initial purchase was in the store. See, touch, unroll: The literal look and feel of many products often can’t be replaced by anything for DIY store customers.” Nevertheless, Fries wants to continue advancing the connection between instore and online shopping. “We still have many ideas and we’re always trying out a lot of things,” added the IT boss with a smile. “But there are still some things we won’t reveal yet. We in the Saarland simply don’t like to cross our bridges before we get to them.” And it is easy to believe the head of IT at Globus Baumarkt when he says there is still plenty to come.