How XXLhoreca Uses Live Chat to Support Its Exponential Growth

Mark Rood is the founder of XXLhoreca, an online wholesaler of non-food items for the hospitality industry, selling professional hospitality and kitchen equipment online.

One can fairly say that the Mark’s Webshop hit the sweet spot. XXLhoreca has grown into one of the most successful shops on SEOshop (the platform on which it was built), selling in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Poland, with plans to expand to Germany soon.

Since September 2014 XXLhoreca makes use of Userlike Live Chat to assist their Webvisitors in real-time. We sit down with Mark, who's been in the industry for 4 years, to talk about the service challenges of XXLhoreca and their experiences with Userlike.

How did you start XXLhoreca and why?

We noticed that there was a wholesale supply gap in hospitality industry equipment. The market was quite traditional and outdated, with many suppliers doing business only through a showroom. There were players that had added a webshop on the side, but none with a convincing professional look.

Where the existing players expanded from a showroom to an online shop, we did it the other way around: our basis has always been our webshop, and only later did we add a showroom. Our customers' first connection with our business is always our website, but they still want to take a look at the product.


What is your USP?

I'd say it's a combination of Low Prices, a Wide Range of Products, and an Outstanding Customer service.

We can offer lower prices and a wider range of products than our competitors because we could achieve by being an online player from the start, which allowed us to be highly efficient.

The service is also a very important part and something we've stressed from the start. Our customers are good in what they do, and they know the benefits they are looking for. However the products they look for are complex, which is where our advisory role comes in. Oftentimes customers tell us ‘We want this product, does it do so and so?’. We ask further about their use cases, and it’s often the case that we have another product in store that better fits their needs.

Customers really appreciate this, as it gives them higher value in the end. Because of this they buy more from us and recommend us to their friends and contacts. So I’d say that’s the winning formula: Sharp prices, broad product range, and a personalised service.

To continue on the personalised service, how do you offer this?

I guess we started out as every business does, with phone and email. When we had the showroom we could also invite people over, a personal touch that's always appreciated.

We’ve always had our contact details shown prominently on the website, and this is how we’ve delivered service until a few months ago: service of a high quality, but in a reactive manner. This changed when we implemented Userlike Live Chat. With the chat we proactively engage the web visitors, making sure they don't leave our site with unanswered questions.


We knew good service was an important foundation of our success, so we are always on the lookout for solutions that could improve us in this point. In the SEOshop App Store Userlike was the first dedicated Live Chat solution. We tried Robin before, but were not at all satisfied about the Live Chat functionality they offered. Userlike was easy to integrate and set up, took us 1 hour and we had our desired set up.

International expansion is an exciting topic for many webshop owners. How did you expand to the countries outside of the Netherlands? (Belgium, Poland, Austria)

Belgium is a logical expansion because there is no language barrier, the others we got to through market analysis and luck. In Poland we had existing contacts who knew the business culture there, which makes it a lot easier to start things up. They saw that there'd also be a market for what we offer, since the existing suppliers were antiquated.

Many people ask us why we expanded to Austria instead of Germany, since the business culture is similar and Germany is a bigger market. Basically we got to this through a market analysis. We saw that in Austria the market was even further underdeveloped than in the Netherlands, so it'd be easier for us to penetrate. In Germany it's a different story: the competition is a lot higher, with strong online players like ourselves. At that point in time we didn't see ourselves pushing the German competition away just yet. Now we are a couple years further, stronger, and ready to make an entrance.


What benefits has Live Chat brought to your business?

Well it's ideal for our customers, they don't have to make a call or send an email to get their questions answered.

Some people are simply hesitant to pick up the phone, it is some sort of fear. With the chat they feel safe, and still get their answers right away. With email people never know how long they'll have to wait for the answer. With Live Chat they know they'll get answers right away and they don't have to leave our website.

What does your current setup look like?

We have around 6-8 people manning the chat in shifts, divided in a Dutch and a Polish group. We are working on setting up a service team to also offer chat in our Austrian webshop and for when we expand to Germany. We have around 200 chats per day, so the people behind the chat do various other tasks in the meantime. If one of them answers a phone call, he goes on Away in the Chat Panel. Emails can be answered in between chats.

Is there 1 striking experience you can recall with Live Chat?

Well it is hard to think of 1 in particular, but more in general I can tell you that I really appreciate when I'm answering questions about a certain product over the chat, and I see that this actually resulted in a sale. It’s a good kick.

Did you do any measuring of the impact of Live Chat on your business metrics?

Initially we just ran with our feeling that told us we were making extra sales through the chat. Then we also did some simple A/B testing which confirmed our feelings: we made made around 25% more conversions on the version with Live Chat integrated. This number is probably even higher because of returning visitors that chatted in the 1st occasion but not on the 2nd time when they actually made their purchase.

What is your favourite feature?

The proactive function, being able to reach out to the webvisitors proactively in case they might have a problem. I think we catch a lot of extra people through this who otherwise would have left the site with unanswered questions.

Do you have a story to share about your online shop and the way you do service? Please share!