How Estillon focuses on e-commerce for worldwide exportFloor Marcus
The December issue of Globe magazine (the magazine published by Evofenedex, the association of entrepreneurs) contains an extensive interview with Richard Bosveld;
– About how a niche player focuses on e-commerce for worldwide export –
Source: Globe magazine, Evofenedex
Niche player focuses on e-commerce for worldwide export
If you’re looking for underlays for special applications, you run across Estillon right away. The percentage of exports, 45%, shows indeed that foreign companies also know how to find this manufacturer. 70% of this is sold in Europe. The rest goes primarily to the Middle East. Furthermore, this manufacturer regularly supplies underlays in the US, and Central Asia has become a growing market. The underlying principle for export is to do all of the marketing, sales and service from the headquarters in Uden as much as possible. E-commerce is paramount in this.
“This year, our website had visitors from more than 145 countries. Since underlay is an important base for every floor installation, people who are really looking for the right solution generally find their way to us. This includes contractors, carpeting or flooring manufacturers, hotel owners, architects and installers who are searching for special fire-retardant products, for example. Our focus is on collaboration with the entire chain”, says director/owner Richard Bosveld (52) with pride. “Our group of customers consists not just of consumers, but are mainly contractors and project-furnishing specialists. For example, we recently delivered and installed 14,625 m² of underlay for a newly built mosque in Tajikistan.
To increase our name recognition, we are active on social media, particularly on LinkedIn. We support our offices in Germany, France and England with content in their languages. “In order to have optimum visibility, we’re constantly working on search engine optimisation.”
Always in the picture
Three years ago, Richard made the decision to focus on e-commerce with his marketing and sales. “I have a few friends in the e-commerce sector and they always said ‘Richard, this really is going to happen’. At first, you find it hard to believe; but then you start learning about it. So I took an e-commerce course and am now fully convinced that traditional sales methods with sales reps and agents are becoming less and less important. That’s why were now committing fully to e-commerce. Via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook YouTube and other channels. We want to be active there with even more languages – starting with Arabic, Russian and Spanish.”
If you want to work at Estillon, you have to speak multiple languages. “That’s why I like to hire people with a foreign background. We have colleagues from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Eritrea and a half-German”, according to Richard. “This is really necessary because we try to do all of the contacts, sales and service from here by means of social media, e-mail and mailings. In addition, our people are also on the telephone here a lot, of course. Not just for acquisition, but also for customer retention. Because you can continue to grow only if you stay in the picture continuously with all your international contacts.”
Despite the focus on e-commerce, our large flooring trade shows also remain important marketing instruments for Estillon. “For example, we always have an exposition at the Domotex in Hannover, where tens of thousands of flooring professionals come each year from all over the world. We also participate in trade shows in Germany and the UK, such as the BAU in Munich and the National Flooring Show in Harrogate. In France, we generally attend the regional trade shows. Maintaining good contacts with the carpeting industry is also essential for us. As far as that goes, our location here in Brabant is quite strategic: a perfect distance between Genemuiden and Flanders.”
Reins in hand
Estillon supplies two types of underlays: rolls of underlay and underlay floorboards. “We make the floorboards here ourselves; we outsource the production of the underlays made of felt or polyurethane, for example, to various manufacturers, since I can’t simply set up our own factory for every product”, Richard explains. “In that sense, we are an importer, but we always do the product development ourselves. This allows us to respond to the newest demands in the market and to create distinctive products. As a co-maker, we keep the reins in our own hands. For example, we recently launched underlay made of PET bottles, the Finity.” The first orders have already been placed and Richard is convinced that there is much more to come. Because increasing attention is being paid to sustainability – also in the world of flooring.
We also note huge response to our blogs about CSR. Together with our suppliers, we’re always reviewing the composition of our products. What are they made of exactly? Which raw materials would it be better to replace? We also no longer use glues containing solvents, and with the 500 solar panels on our roof, we can power our entire chain of production. The more sustainably we work, the better. That’s why we are also a member of MVO Nederland.”
Unfortunately, the fact that many entrepreneurs in the Netherlands are working to make their products as green as possible is not valued much outside Europe, according to Richard. In southern Europe and Eastern Europe, he says, there is indeed increasing interest for ecological products. “You used to get a request, you issued a quote and you almost always heard that it was too expensive. That’s no longer a problem. Living standards have become higher, especially in Eastern Europe. People there want more luxury in their homes and work and recreation, generating more demand for high-quality underlay; as a result, our sales are increasing there considerably.”
And Estillon is still rolling out.
Richard: “Using an oil-slick approach, we want to serve the former Soviet states from Eastern Europe. For example, we already supply in Ukraine and Belarus, where the demand for underlays with proper hygiene certificates is high. We want to make contacts in those countries particularly by having stands at trade shows.”
Richard is taking various routes towards sales abroad. “Our greatest sales in Europe are in Germany and France, where we have our own offices with our own people, along with the United Kingdom. There, we cooperate with a wholesaler who sells 90% of our products. We serve the rest of Europe, Central Asia, Canada, the US, Mexico and Chile ourselves from Uden. One of our people goes there only if it’s really necessary. We have an agent in Spain, in Turkey and in the Middle East. This latter is an extremely important export area for us because there is carpeting nearly everywhere – not only in homes, but also in hotels and offices. Once every two years, I do a long tour to maintain all our contacts, but the majority of the questions come in at our headquarters and are handled there if at all possible.”
According to Richard, this is possible only by following orders and questions continuously, in great detail, and by always supporting the customer pro-actively. “This creates a bond with your customers, which generally means that they know to look you up the next time. For this, it’s essential that we know exactly what we’re talking about. Our employees know exactly how to create added value for floor coverings with underlay that ensures better walking comfort, noise reduction or thermal insulation for radiant heating.”
Multiple partial orders
One of the challenges when exporting to many different countries is that each country has its own standards for such issues as noise insulation and fire safety. “We have tested all our products for the countries in which we are active”, says Richard. “If an Italian contractor needs underlay for a hotel, for example, then he knows that our products comply with the Italian guidelines for flammability and smoke formation. We maintain all of this information in a knowledge database, making our underlays rapidly deployable.”
Estillon does not have its own transportation. “Large orders often leave our co-makers’ factories directly. We hire transport companies ourselves, such as Kuehne + Nagel for our export to Germany and Rotra for France. For ocean shipping, our products go to Rotterdam, often by means of inland waterway shipping via the trans-shipment centre in Oss. Since underlay is not perishable, there is usually no particular haste. So we are glad to opt for transport with lower CO2 emissions. Our logistics are particularly flexible. For example, we can also deliver for each floor of a building, while in many countries, the larger suppliers require full-container minimum orders. We can also deliver an order as multiple partial orders if there is not enough storage space at the construction site.”
In addition to all of its export activities, Estillon is also an importer. “Estillon was established in Tilburg in 1965 by Mr Lokin. The ‘til’ in our name is a nod to that. In the late 1980s, my father bought the company and I took over from him in 1996,” Richard explains. “Originally, we were a wholesaler in interior textiles, carpeting and curtains. Starting as a regional distributor, we expanded into a national and then an international player in underlays.
Thanks to our history, we know full well how important good tools are for project furnishers. That’s why we started with the sales and distribution of Roberts tools in Europe, Russia and the Middle East in 2006. Roberts is an American brand of high-quality tools for floor installers. Their knives and tensioners are always in demand.”
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