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INTERVIEW Noelia Guinón of Björn Borg on how the sportwear brand has developed in the UK market, and more

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Ecommerce business Björn Borg has grown into the UK market from its Swedish homeland in recent years. We asked Noelia Guinón, ecommerce manager of the sports brand, to tell us more.

Internet Retailing: Tell us about Björn Borg and how the business has developed over recent years, including overseas expansion?

Bjorn Borg UK ltd was founded in September 2010. Back then, we had around 20 top-end bricks and mortar doors such as Selfridges selling mainly Björn Borg men’s underwear.

The UK site was launched during summer 2012 and this has since grown to become our third largest market in regards to e-tail sales. It is also the market that has the highest sales increase, and the largest percentage of sales in sportswear – larger than for any other Björn Borg market, Sweden and the Netherlands included.

Things that stand out on a global level for the UK (again, within our e-tail business) is that our UK clients are the largest fans of briefs in the Björn Borg world, buying more briefs than any other country. Our underwear subscriptions are very popular in the UK, along with our swimwear, and a product named Iconic mesh has sold extraordinarily well in the UK, much thanks to Made in Chelsea star Binky Felstead, who featured an Iconic mesh set with bra and panties in her own social media channels.

The products that sell the best online on a global scale are polyamide and three-packs of underwear. The background here is that once you know your size and have tried the products, underwear is very suitable for e-tail. A click away, and a few days later it arrives in your mailbox.

The tennis player Björn Borg sold the rights to the brand name in connection with the stock exchange listing of the company in 2007. He is no longer actively involved in the day-to-day business, but he stays up to speed and he will always be the shining star of inspiration for the whole business. This is a man who changed tennis from being a conservative sport into a vibrant scene for the passionate and the active. He started a revolution against traditionalists and conformists that has spread all over the world. He showed us that being active and making a difference is far more attractive than playing it safe and it is this attitude that is the core of the Björn Borg brand. That is how we create our sports fashion and that is how we inspire the people who wear it.

We have managed to accomplish an aggressive growth and have gone from offering e-tail for the sake of it, to laying the foundations of our own, strong web shop based on a new platform with new design, mobile integration and a new payment provider partner, Adyen, which enables us to tailormake payment methods on a country based level, so that the payment methods we offer can look different in different markets – we have the flexibility to adjust to local consumer behaviours.

In regards to payment methods, working together with Adyen we now also offer recurring payments; a system enabling the customer to save their payment details for a more swift affair at future purchases.

Our platform is now fully responsive on all mobile devices, where our effort has been focused on a smooth shopping experience. A purchase at needs to inspiring, intuitive and, above all, easy no matter what device you choose to visit us on.

We have introduced local pages in the US and Canada and are now in October/November launching; a new local page for Australia.

IR: What innovations are you proudest of?

NG: We’re proud of our live chat functionality, launched in May 2015, as well as our underwear subscription service.

Live chat means the customer can not only chat with our customer service, but the chat function actually directly connects the person to its shopping or search behaviour. This means that through chat we can make special personal offers, for instance an complimentary pair of underwear we know a certain VIP customer likes, or a real-time rebate code for a first time buyer/prospect. The ambition here is that the service that you meet should be just as personal and as flexible as when you enter a physical store. Presently, our chat service is limited to Swedish office hours, but if it works well, a global customer service will be introduced.

Our customer service software also includes social media mentioning on Twitter and Facebook, enabling our customer service team to proactivity and personal assistance in real time in social media as well.

Through our subscription service, you sign up for receiving two pairs of underwear on a bi-monthly basis. It is a way for our most loyal customers to be sure of always having the latest from our underwear collections.

IR: What one challenge have you successfully faced – and how did you deal with it?

NG: Our absolutely largest challenge has been with our supply chain, specifically when shifting from having our own warehouse to an outsourced service. To make this shift during a sales period without having tested the service from our new partner was a huge mistake and let’s just say that the results were less than ideal.

The key here is that it doesn’t matter how amazing your marketing activities are or how great the site is if the last mile of the order is unsuccessful. If logistics fail, the whole shopping experience is spoiled. Much thanks to our customer service, we hardly lost any clients due to this fiasco; overnight, we structured our customer service and introduced a cloud based customer service tool through which we were able to offer personal service.

In our dealings with frustrated customers, we also held a completely open communication, putting honesty in the first room. In the end, we were able to keep 98% of all customers. On the upside, this whole debacle resulted in our getting our very own ecommerce warehouse through which we are offered real-time integration. We have also been able to introduce streamlined logistics solutions for all divisions throughout the company; an upside that we couldn’t have predicted in advance.

IR: How have you used technology most usefully?

NG: The live chat is a great example of that. The segmentation that we can make of visitors and customers enables us to give a much more personal service. The next step is to take this customer database and tailor make news letters with offers based on what you have looked at when visiting our site. For these type of developments we always look at solutions in the UK and the US since e-com development is the strongest there. We also use American and UK suppliers for our own solutions.

IR: What are your plans for the future?

NG: We will continue building a premium sports fashion brand. Our offer will not be based on price promotions but rather on things that are adjusted to your personal interests. Our mantra now and for the future is engage, interact and personalize.

Noelia Guinón will be speaking in an upcoming Internet Retailing webinar, Björn Borg unleashes the power of data to engage customers, held in association with Bronto Software. Find out more and register for the free event on the Bronto webinar page.

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