DISCOVER Magazine #7

Damen’s new online strategy. The aim: Digital service provision

Published in category: Innovation

by Sven Remijnsen

Damen has committed to a new online strategy. Sander van Oord (Area Director, Americas) who has overall responsibility for its implementation, and Björn Smets (Digital Marketing Manager), tell what is going to change and, in particular, why.

When Sander van Oord is at an airport and walks from his plane to the baggage claim area, KLM tells him on his phone on which carousel he will find his suitcase. Should his plane be delayed, he sends a WhatsApp to the airline and receives an answer neatly in Dutch.

Probably nobody is surprised by this as it is a service provision we consider normal, an example of the high service levels that we as consumers have become accustomed to in so short a time. “People now expect this digital service provision from most companies that they deal with, and that includes Damen”, says Sander. “We now see existing customers in Western Europe on our online chat asking for information. Until recently they phoned or made an appointment with the sales manager.”

A new way of working is called for.

At present we send a sales person to a client and they have a conversation, which is followed up, and hopefully business arises from it. This is a process that we would like to digitise more and more.

Doing business smarter

To achieve this, packages are being developed and rolled out, fitting into the new online strategy. “We are working on a foundation on which we are going to build our house again,” explains Björn. “The point of departure is to do business smarter. We have to understand what the needs of the client are in the different phases in which he has contact with Damen. At each phase we ask the question ‘is a human intervention needed, or can a digital tool do it?’ The intention is therefore not to become 100% digital.”

The techniques that Damen currently uses, such as Sitecore CMS and Salesforce, are mostly technological platforms that have existed for a long time, so this isn’t exactly new ground for Damen. The idea is to have all the techniques available at the moment that you expect to need them.

“Say you are looking for a tugboat”, Björn illustrates. “You go to our website and see a type of retail brochure with all the tugboats we offer. But there are too many to choose from. At that moment you need a helping hand, either a smarter website or contact with a chatbot or a person, something you can apply in each phase. If you want to know whether you can finance a ship, you should also get an answer somewhere along the line.”


The digital process requires dozens of steps. “Step number one is to be found more easily on Google,” says Björn, “so you can communicate with the market wherever you are. A client in Brazil will get the content delivered immediately from a server in Brazil and not from our server in Den Bosch, as is currently the case. This is a basic element, to have Google find your website more easily. Actually we don’t call it a website anymore, you determine who needs what and on that basis you create landing pages within your platform. What we would prefer is an account-related platform. On Facebook or Instagram you can’t do anything unless you log in, but after logging in as a company you immediately know everything about the user. I am firmly convinced it will also work this way in our industry.”

Sander: “The question is then: are we going to capture that data? I think so, because on the basis of that data you can personalise your website. If you are known as someone who is interested in tugboats then you don’t want to work through all the fishing vessels on the site. You want to see the tug boat of the week offer, rather than the fishing vessel of the week. We don’t have that data yet, but it is an interesting prospect for the future.”

Another idea is that the website should be interesting on entering it. “The defining idea of a website isn’t any more: I want to show the world everything that I make,” Sander says. “No, we must move in the direction that you are helped in finding the specific information you are looking for as soon as possible, so that we can quickly convert you from a potential client to an interested client, to someone with whom we can engage in targeted negotiations and hopefully closure. How do I lead you through my sales process? That is the question from the sales side. And from the opposite side: how am I helped optimally as buyer? Conceptually, it’s a totally new idea compared to what we have now.”

You also help a buyer by not spamming him with articles. “Because we currently have no profiles of clients, we send them everything, so then at least they miss nothing. But if we can deliver information based on their individual profiles then it all becomes far more interesting and useful for them. For this we need to roll out a number of packages, which will happen in the near future.”

In the short term a social media package will be rolled out. All the content that Damen offers will become available, and monitoring is also included.

So that you can make contact with Damen via social media and also receive an answer.

All these steps will be realised within the next six months. Sander summarises: “Then the basis will be well-grounded. We will be easily found on Google, we’ll have a website that does what we want it to do, we’ll have marketing tools and input and monitoring with regard to social media.”


Afterwards we will tackle other issues, such as e-commerce. “We are thinking of a webshop for parts, such as anchors and chains”, Sander says. “But what we would also like is to offer a number of small standard ships online. As soon as you are logged in you will be able to see what our standard Stan Patrol 1204 costs, including price and delivery time, where it is situated, and all the trimmings and fixings. This will be unique. It would need some getting used to in this organisation when you show information such as the price. But this, of course, will not applicable to vessels such as yachts and frigates, as these are not readily available in stock. In addition, the chance that someone makes a capital investment without meeting the person with whom he does business is fairly slim.”

What could also be advantageous is analysing the online behaviour of clients. If Sander notices that a client looks at the delivery time of a certain ship type for the sixth time within a week, then that could give him useful information. “Apparently, he is urgently searching for something. If a significant number of clients does that, it could tell me that a particular market is seeing increasing interest, which gives me the opportunity to build stock ahead of time.”


It is all about data, and also about content, but the major challenge is probably getting the buy-in of everybody in the organisation. “We must all do what is agreed, otherwise it goes wrong with the digital linking”, Sander points out. “We have to convince everyone of the value of the type of service provision that we will be able to offer. If we want to see to it that in five or 10 years’ time we are still digitally competitive then we have to start today.”

The world changes, and so does Damen. “Soon people will be able to find all the technical details of our ships online. What we want to do is to ensure that they only need to contact us when it must be something which they really cannot arrange online: such as financing, local building, payment requirements, a part of the contract negotiations. Then only those actions and decisions that cannot be finalised online will become the work of the future for our sales organisation. But for that single spare part you need at short notice? No-one else needs to be involved.”

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