Product owner web checkout, Sandra van de Schraaf, has been with HEMA since July 2020. “I zoom in on the website’s front end. When I started, I was the sole PO for the website. That was, to put it mildly, a lot of work! Now we spread the load across three product owners. And with our teams of developers, business analysts, scrum masters, and tech leads, we deliver the entire online shopping experience.”

How did you guys divide the pie?

“We made the customer journey leading and attached product owners. There’s a PO for the acquisition phase – where does the customer enter? – who focuses on topics like SEO, site speed, the home page, category pages, promotions, and so forth. My other colleague PO zooms in on the selection phase, where everything revolves around product lists, product pages, and configuration tools for things like curtains and 3D printed cakes. And I’m in charge of the checkout process. Where do you want your purchases delivered? How would you like to pay? How can we prevent customers from abandoning shopping baskets at the register?”

So, did you draw the short straw? As in: checkout doesn’t sound very, um, megalomaniacal?

“Well, funny you should ask. When a new PO started last year, he was up for anything except checkout. My other colleague felt the same way. But what’s really funny, is that I was very eager to work on it. Firstly, because I think the checkout is an incredibly important aspect of the customer experience. You want to guide customers through the checkout as quickly and smoothly as possible. And secondly because there was still a lot we could accomplish and improve in this area. For example, by making better use of data. It’s a fascinating process to delve into. How do customers actually use shopping carts? How does that change on a desktop – with loads of screen real estate, so the entire basket is always visible – compared to a mobile device, where there’s much less space to work with?”

You just mentioned data: to what extent are your insights and decisions data-driven?

“We work very closely with Data & Analytics. We want to know exactly what our customers do and what motivates them. Where do they drop out? How can we make things easier for a more appealing checkout process? We also gain a lot of insights from Ecom, where they conduct customer research. Whenever they notice something interesting, we present their findings to Data & Analytics. They can use that input to evaluate if an improvement or innovation is worth investing in.” Do you have an example? “Sure, say we want to offer more international shipping options. Well, one of the first things you need to know is how many customers this would actually help. Our analysis helps us develop innovations in the correct order.”

Okay, I’m sold. But: how is the setting and workplace atmosphere?

“I’ve personally always been attracted to the retail setting. The connection to brick-and-mortar stores. It creates a bond. And it keeps you aware that you’re building a place for visitors to come shop. That they need a convenient way to pay. This is always in the back of my mind, and it adds an extra dimension. More generally: HEMA continuously challenges you, and there’s always something going on. Small organizations have their own charm, but at HEMA you can work on big topics. Things that impact a huge number of customers. As for the workplace environment – something I’m sensitive to – it’s very pleasant. Very open. Everyone is eager to help and get the job done together. You can ask anything, and there’s a genuine sense of community. Perhaps because we’re a typically Dutch company. And because we produce all of our own products. This lets us approach things differently and make different decisions: we’re not confined by the assortments of external brands. And I really love –that you can experience the entire process. Drop in at the design studio for a workshop. Or browse products that haven’t hit our shelves yet. I definitely get a kick out of that.”