Written by  Florian Gendrault

We recently caught up with Thijs van Mil, Product Owner at the Netherland’s biggest high-end department store, the Bijenkorf, to find out how Usabilla for Apps is helping them optimize and grow their ecommerce app.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello! I am Thijs van Mil, currently working at de Bijenkorf as a Product Owner in the Ecommerce department. My main focus is on the mobile application, where I determine the strategy and roadmap, taking into account its relation to all other physical and digital channels of de Bijenkorf.

What are the challenges of building and maintaining an ecommerce app?

The goal for us is to create an app that matches the needs and expectations of our customers. Involving users in the development lifecycle is essential in achieving that goal. We validate ideas, new features and changes on a weekly basis with our customers. Those tests determine which developments will receive priority, which designs need to be changed, and which features need to be cancelled. In addition to that, we use feedback collected through Usabilla on a daily basis. The quantity and diversity of feedback we receive through Usabilla is higher than live testing, which provides a broader picture about the state of the app.

From a technical point of view, it is important to have a proper systems architecture set up, as the app will most likely have to connect with various services on the backend. In our case, we not only see the app as a display of our products, but also as a means to connect the customer to the Bijenkorf as a whole. That means for instance being able to identify customers at our stores by means of iBeacons, displaying their saved Bijenkorf Punten as part of our Privilege Membership loyalty program, and bringing our numerous events to their attention.

Bijenkorf 1

What are the main metrics that you measure against?

The main metrics we measure against are Active Users, (Average) Revenue, Conversion, NPS and Usage of the various features of the app.

What methods do you have in place for tracking usability/UX problems and errors?

On a weekly basis we perform usertests with actual customers, which provides an excellent method to validate the general flow of the app and receive feedback on specific features. Observing users while they are accomplishing various tasks provides a lot of insight – even a small number of customers results in valuable feedback.

On a daily basis we use the feedback generated from our passive feedback form in the app, which is visible and accessible from every part of the app. That provides an efficient way to gather more feedback from more users, with respect to all different areas in an app.

A third method are questions and remarks of customers that have contacted our Customer Contact Center directly. They can do that in the store, by phone, email, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.

Have you noticed any trends that impact your product development choices?

One trend we see is that customers expect a more integrated approach between the various channels. It is the customer who determines which channel he prefers to use. Some customers prefer to shop online but pick or buy the item in a store. Others prefer to browse through products in a store but want to order them online to have them delivered to their home address. We use customer testing and feedback to determine how we can best support their needs in the app. Making customers an integral part of your development efforts is therefore a necessity.

Another trend is making apps more personal and contextualized. Many apps are using data such as location, purchase history, time of day and much more to provide different functions for different users.

With regard to UX, there is a lot of research conducted and available at the moment, and the importance of an outstanding user and customer experience will only grow. For us that means staying on top of current research by others, next to our own efforts.

Bijenkorf 2

What do you think are the upcoming trends for mobile apps?

Personalization, context-aware content, outstanding UX, effortless experience and interaction through messaging.

What is the advantage of having an app over a mobile site?

The main advantage of an app is that you can build a tighter relationship with your users. For instance: instead of passively waiting until a user visits your mobile site, you can actively reach them with Push notifications. That means you can alert them to interesting events, product offerings, or the status of their order. In general an app can provide a more seamless and effortless interface for various functionalities, providing more context to a user.

There are features, for instance tickets for certain events, that could technically be offered in both a mobile site and an app. But in general customers simply expect some features to be present in an app and not the mobile site, and vice versa.

A mobile site and an app serve a different – and most of the time overlapping – purpose. I see a mobile site as an excellent channel that enables us to reach a large audience. The app then offers a more rich environment to form a deeper connection with our customers. It is therefore not surprising we see a strong correlation between loyalty and app usage.

What methods do you have in place for increasing app adoption?

The user tests and feedback over the past period have resulted in quite a few ideas for improving the app. We are now working on a few big updates to our app, which will improve the user experience in general, and most notably the shopping experience. That will create a strong foundation for the app as a channel, and that makes it easier to use the app in our omnichannel strategy. We will then be able to create better links between for instance the stores, website, newsletter, customer service and app. Combining our digital and physical presence, including our numerous events, provides a solid base to increase app adoption.