It’s been a few weeks since Europe’s e-commerce and pricing event of the year, produced and hosted by Omnia Retail, took Amsterdam by storm at the modern Capital C building in early March. Our invited guests were on the receiving end of the knowledge and expertise of some of the e-commerce world’s greatest minds and leaders, making for a successful annual rendition of Price Points Live.

On this year’s stage was Prof. Hermann Simon, the co-founder and chairman of Simon-Kucher, who was a returning speaker at Price Points Live. He is known as the world’s leading expert on pricing and growth consulting. Also on the stage was Natalie Berg, an analyst, author and podcast host; Dr Doug Mattheus, a business executive and consultant in marketing, retail and branding; Gerrie Smits, a business consultant, speaker and author, and lastly, Cor Verhoeven, Group Product Manager at Bol, specialising in pricing and assortment insights. To conclude, the warm and confident Suyin Aerts returned as our host.

Whether it be transparency in pricing, marketing or e-commerce practices, our panel of speakers bring more than a century of collective knowledge and experience to the table. So, what did our guests learn and take away from each of our speakers? What can brands and retailers understand about pricing, consumer behaviour and branding? Omnia shares the insights and knowledge pertinent to e-commerce success in 2024.

Natalie Berg: E-commerce author and analyst

“We are living in a perpetual state of disruption, and retail is no stranger to this, but the past few years have seen unprecedented levels of volatility and uncertainty,” shared Natalie. 

Whether we want to call it disruption, a seismic shift or a geopolitical and socio-economic tsunami, the one mitigating force to today’s ecommerce landscape was - and still is - Covid-19. “Covid has digitised our world - the way we live, the way we shop, or the way we exercise. And when it comes to shopping, most of it is still done in a brick-and-mortar store, but the majority of these sales are digitally influenced,” shares Natalie. 

This has brought brands and retailers to the popular omnichannel strategy, which has become more and more common and necessary. However, Natalie predicts that retail will start moving from omnichannel to ‘unified commerce’ which is “not just about being present in those channels but centralising those operations and connecting everything in real-time,”.. We see this already taking place with the partnership that shocked the e-commerce world in 2023 when Meta and Amazon announced that Meta users can shop Amazon products without even having to exit their Instagram or Facebook apps, creating a centralised and synonymous experience for social commerce and marketplaces’ shoppers.

She goes on to speak about the customer’s time and how much more precious it is going to become for e-commerce and retail leaders. “28% of Amazon purchases take place in three minutes or less,” she stated,” so if you’re not saving a customer’s time, you have to be enhancing it.” A customer’s tolerance for mediocrity or for average service or experiences is getting lower and lower, which is how the customer experience has become the new currency. “It’s about really wowing your customers. Going beyond! Disrupting the status quo.” 

She shares that a new phenomenon is taking place because of this refreshed focus on the customer experience: The democratisation of white-glove service. “It’s a technology that is helping brands and retailers give this level of service,”.. This includes Walmart, in the US, which will go into your home to stock your kitchen with your newly purchased groceries while other retailers will collect your returns from your house when they make delivery, allowing the customer to kill two birds with one stone. Adidas in London has installed a system called “Bring it To Me” in change rooms where, if you want an item that’s in a different colour or size, a store assistant can collect it for you without you having to leave the change room. “Tech-enabled human touch - that’s what will separate the retailer winners from the retail losers,” Natalie argues.

To conclude, Natalie speaks on how the use of AI will empower both e-commerce players and customers when shopping. “In the future, we won’t know where the physical world ends and the digital one begins,” giving an eerie yet exciting conclusion. “As a brand or retailer, standing still is the most dangerous thing you can do.” 

Dr Doug Mattheus: Consultant and branding expert

Hailing from South Africa and living in the UK is Dr Doug Mattheus whose presentation focused on the art and science of brand building. So, what makes a brand long-lasting? “It is a mix of tangible and intangible features that, if properly managed, creates influence and generates value,” says Doug. But, as we’ve seen brands rise and fall over the last few decades, what are some of the factors that have created the most valuable brands in the world, from Apple to Mercedes Benz to Walmart?

Creating a brand hook

The ways in which a customer can get hooked on a brand are limitless: Reflecting back to the time he received his first pair of Nike shoes in high school, the one item Doug cared about keeping just as much as the shoes themselves was the box they came in. “It wasn’t just a box - it was a Nike box.” Fast-forward to adulthood, he visited a Harrods store and witnessed customers buy empty single-use packets and bags with the Harrods logo on them. In a more recent case, the fragrance of bath bombs and body scrubs in the air at a mall or airport has become one that is synonymous with LUSH. “Just follow your nose,” says Doug. “So, what is your brand hook?” On the contrary, we see brands like The Body Shop that have struggled to keep up with digitally-native challenger brands like Drunk Elephant, Glossier and Paula’s Choice in the personal care market and is undergoing mass closures across the US and EU. Doug’s advice to brands is to create a unique hook - whether it be in the sights, smells, sounds or physical world.

What’s your differentiator from competitors?

A small player in the award-winning wine industry in South Africa is a vineyard called Vergenoegd Wine Estate. By a large stretch, it is not the most well-known or award-winning brand. However, this boutique vineyard did not refrain from harnessing the commercial value of organic farming. 

The winemakers introduced runner ducks to the vineyard, which roamed around eating worms, snails, and bugs that could be detrimental to the vines. In addition, these ducks became a tonic for families and couples with kids wanting to experience the vineyard while having something fun for children. The ducks have become a unique feature to Vergenoegd Wine Estate and a key driver of foot traffic and revenue. 

“This is a great example of how a small player is not being defined by its smallness and not being intimidated by bigger players.”

Multiple touchpoints for customers

Stemming from Natalie’s thoughts on brands having to go the extra mile to impress customers, Doug shares that there are moments of magic around us at all times, and it is up to business leaders to find and develop those moments. However, where there is ease and innovation between brands and customers (like at Nordstrom in Seattle, USA who did not want to lose their “eyeball moments” with customers from rapid digitalisation, began offering curbside pick-up so they can still have face-to-face interactions with shoppers), there are also moments of friction and time-wasting that cause frustration for customers. It’s about fine-tuning interactions and creating moments that make a brand memorable.

Relevance: Do you reinvent like a butterfly or a bull?

As the title suggests, brands in many verticals, but especially in fashion, personal care, sporting goods, fitness, and electronics, are faced with the rapid rise of digitally-native brands that exist to challenge the status quo. In fact, these brands, which have only known a digital world, are, in fact called “challenger brands” because of the innovative approach to design, production, supply chains, customer interactions, marketing, and everything under the e-commerce sun. According to Doug, brands who reinvent like a butterfly are those who can go with the changes and challenges in front of them with agility and resilience while those who face reinvention like a bull may be stubborn and ignorant and may face their own downfall.



Cor Verhoeven: Group Product Manager at Bol.

Coming from one of Europe’s largest and most successful marketplaces, Bol., Cor Verhoeven delved into pricing, specifically how Bol. tackles bad prices on the platform and what the negatives are for a marketplace or e-commerce brand. “We have 38 million items for sale, 13 million active customers, and 50,000 unique selling partners. That means almost every home in the Netherlands and Belgium has bought something from Bol.,” says Cor. With numbers like that, it’s more than possible that a marketplace would run into pricing issues. 

“Part of our strategy is to make Bol. an equal playing field. Our sellers must be able to make a living off what they sell on Bol. - it’s not just us that needs to do well.” So, how does a customer-centric pricing strategy fall into this? “We all work hard to make sure that the price of an item is not the reason someone doesn’t buy something on Bol.,” says Cor. “Pricing is important because it positions you in a competitive market, it establishes customer trust, and it establishes customer lifetime value. Our success is caused by growth, monetising and retaining in a loop,” explained Cor.



“Our three main beliefs when it comes to pricing are High-quality deals, trustworthy and reliable prices, and competitive prices in line with the market.” The balancing act between insult pricing and best-in-market pricing is tricky and precarious, which is why Bol. judges their products on their prices. “If a product’s price is above an allowable price, we take it offline to product the customer,” Cor stated. 

How does Bol. decide on what is an allowable price? “We source benchmarks. If a product has a benchmark, it’s given a classification - an insult price or an allowable price - and business rules are set,” explained Cor. “When we don’t have a price benchmark, that’s when we have little control.” When Bol. doesn’t have a price benchmark for a product, they utilise their data science model to predict a price while, daily, the model is manually looking for prices to benchmark those products.”



The result is a price for a product that is more aligned with the market and within the boundaries of what a customer will accept. “Of course, taking insult prices offline decreases revenue, but what we get back in return is way bigger. The seller sees increased conversion,” said Cor.

Sander Roose: CEO and Founder of Omnia Retail

Joining the panel was our very own CEO Sander Roose who started his keynote speech by making good on a promise. “At the last Price Points Live event, I promised that Omnia would release a new platform sometime in 2023, and the whole Omnia team is proud to have achieved that.” As a veteran in the dynamic pricing industry, with 12 years at the helm of Omnia Retail, Sander brought to the stage what he believes are the pricing elements and design principles of successful dynamic pricing. 

According to Sander, there are three factors to successful dynamic pricing implementations: Clearly defined objectives; securing engagement and support; and the spirit of continuous learning. “Without clear objectives, you can have a strong pricing platform, but you won’t know how to harness it,” he said. “And as the market changes, you need to be able to change your objectives.” For the second factor, pricing managers and teams need to be fully on board: “If they don’t understand how prices are calculated, they will reject the implementation as a whole.” Then, the third factor speaks to a dynamic pricing user's ability to be agile and curious:  “We see that customers that used the system most intensively to make iterations with their prices get the best results.”

As a result, Omnia found that two key design principles for dynamic pricing success are necessary: flexibility and transparency. “Being able to automate any pricing strategy you can think of, to facilitate all the objectives, to keep control while the system is on autopilot, and finally, making sure the users are adopting the system.”

Flexibility and Transparency

A pricing platform needs to be able to support a vast array of pricing objectives and strategies. “A platform needs to be able to endure various high-level objectives. Perhaps on a global level, you have a profit maximisation objective while the strategy on lower levels, such as on a per country basis, may be different,” explained Sander. “For example, if your global brand has just launched in the Netherlands, you may want to maximise market share. Then, even further down, depending on your various verticals, you may want a stock-based strategy.” Flexibility must also be present not just in pricing strategies but in data collection and the recalculation process. 

Using the example of a Tesla self-driving car with a blacked-out windscreen, Sander makes the point that customers of dynamic pricing still need to be able to see and understand what’s going on - even if the system is on autopilot: “If you create transparency while the system is on autopilot, you can create buy-in from internal stakeholders and facilitate learning loops.”

How flexibility and transparency exist in Omnia 2.0

The culmination of these two values resulted in the Pricing Strategy Tree, developed specifically for Omnia 2.0, making strategy building and interpretation easier and faster. “The copy-and-paste feature means a large D2C brand that wants to launch in a new country can simply execute their entire pricing strategy with just a few clicks by copying the strategy in the tree from another country. This is huge for an international customer to be able to do this.”



Another feature called Path Tracking allows you to visually see how your strategy came to be, step by step. “This feature helps to validate if you set up the tree how you intended to,” explained Sander.

Another feature that elevates transparency is Strategy Branch Statistics which works to answer burning questions from pricing managers: ‘Which part of my strategy is most impactful? The Strategy Branch Statistics feature works to show you which business rules are doing the work to give your prices.’

An additional feature highlighting transparency is the ability to name branches within the tree. The names not only help coworkers understand what you’ve built, but they differentiate the various strategies that are at play at the same time.

Strategy Branch Statistics feature works to show you which business rules are doing the work to give your prices.’

An additional feature highlighting transparency is the ability to name branches within the tree. The names not only help coworkers understand what you’ve built, but they differentiate the various strategies that are at play at the same time.

AI in pricing

“From private label matching, creating automated weekly reports to send to category managers, to automated insights, AI is a powerful technology that has the potential to contribute to the superpowers we offer customers,” says Sander. However, as of today, Sander believes that AI is one part of the machine and should not be considered the holy grail of price setting. “The true need is goal-based pricing,” Sander says.”AI is a means and not an end.”

Sander's vision for AI in Omnia’s pricing platform sees a move from granular pricing strategies that affect the business’s objectives to a scenario where the customer sets the objective, and the Omnia platform automates and optimises prices. “We want to move more and more towards goal-based pricing in our platform. We believe the end game for price automation will be rules and AI, not just AI, and the Pricing Strategy Tree allows for a rules and AI combination.”

Prof. Hermann Simon: Founder of Simon-Kucher, author 

As a world-renowned expert in pricing and consulting, Prof. Hermann Simon joins the panel to share what he thinks are the hidden champions in e-commerce and retail and what their successful strategies are. Specifically, the small and midsized global market leaders with a market share of above 50% and that are little known to the public. “In China, which is by the largest global exporter, 68% of the exports come from small and midsized companies, and behind this number are the hidden champions,” says Hermann. “Inside super export performance requires large companies plus a very strong mid sector. Hidden champions, not large corporations, determine whether a country really excels in global competition. Hidden champions are an untapped treasure to learn about business success.”

Focus and Globalisation

What characterises these companies? “The three pillars of the hidden champion’s strategy are ambition, focus, and globalisation fueled with the tools of innovation, value and price,” shares Hermann. Focusing on your product makes your market small. How does hidden champions enlarge their market? An example of successful globalisation is Karcher, the global leader in high-pressure water hoses, which began internationalisation in the 1970s slowly and then accelerated in the 90s to become the global market share leader at 70%. Other examples include Deichmann, the largest shoe retailer in Europe, which sits in 31 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the US. “The lesson here is that if you have a good product, multiply it by regional expansion,” says Hermann.

Value and Price

For successful companies, value comes from innovation and a closeness to the customer. But what drives innovation? The answer is different for hidden champions and the average company. Below is a pie chart where we can see how little an average company prioritises customer needs:



What is the most important aspect of pricing? “It’s customer-perceived value. The willingness to pay is a mirror of perceived value, and therefore, value equals price,” explains Hermann. “Understanding, creating and communicating values are the key challenges in pricing.” Using the example of the iPhone, the cost has always been above the market average for a smartphone, yet the success of the product indicates it must obviously bring value to the customer. “Value drives price,” concludes Hermann.



According to internal studies at Simon Kucher, only one-third of companies can say they have real pricing power. So, two-thirds are exposed to the sensitivities of the customer. “The result is that value-to-customer and pricing power is created by differentiating your product, changing the way customers perceive your products and your price, and changing the mindset and confidence of your own people in your company,” says Hermann.

Closeness to customer

“88% of hidden champions say that closeness to the customer is their biggest strength, even more than technology,” says Hermann. Simon-Kucher found that 38% of employees at hidden champion companies had regular contact with customers, while large corporations only had 8%. In retail, it is difficult to understand value perception because there are many competitors selling the same thing. This makes retail’s soft parameters, such as the store layout, service and friendliness, more helpful in understanding value perception. 

The challenge then becomes how do enterprises effectively communicate their value offering. “Hidden champions are true value leaders with their intense closeness to customers. They achieve  a more profound understanding of a customer's needs; their continuous innovations create higher value, and they integrate customer needs and technology much better than the average company.”

Gerrie Smits: Speaker and author

Gerrie believes we’re getting customer-centricity all wrong. From his 25-plus years of experience in helping companies prioritise customers as well as how to deal with the changing digital world, he has found a common thread of issues: “Technology is getting in the way, companies are seeing customers as a target, and teams are siloing their responsibilities and not wanting to take on other responsibilities,” says Gerrie. 

“Companies are getting tech just for the sake of it, not because there is any use for it. If you’re going to invest in tech, make sure you have a competitive edge.” According to US business leaders, the number one skill a company needs to have to succeed in the digital world is empathy. “Technology is fantastic if you know what to do with it. My clients are driven by technology, and that’s not customer-centric.”

When it comes to companies seeing customers as a target. “I’ve never met a company that doesn’t say they’re customer-centric - obviously,” says Gerrie. But there is a large difference between intent and action. “For example, Amazon has always said they are obsessed with understanding the customer. Yet still, they got it wrong when, in 2022, they reportedly lost $10 billion from dismal sales for their voice-activated Echo. “What brands need to understand is that there is only a small part of me that is your customer. The rest is me as a human being,” says Gerrie. “Seeing your audience as buyers, you are not fulfilling the whole potential.”



Concluding Price Points Live 2024

In closing, our panel speakers joined Suyin on stage to answer a round of interesting questions and to share their final thoughts. “To drive loyalty, one must understand what your customers value,” said Natalie, while Doug shared that although pricing is vital to brand loyalty, it is not the only factor.

Answering a question about how smaller players in e-commerce can grow and succeed against large enterprises, Natalie says, “It’s like Prof. Hermann said: It’s about focus. You have to know what your strengths are, and then you have to execute really well.”

The world of e-commerce is set to make $6.3 billion in global sales in 2024, which is expected to increase to $8 billion in 2027. However, what’s more interesting is the amount of e-commerce users which is set to increase to 3.2 billion by 2029 - a third of the current world population. More shoppers don’t necessarily mean more revenue and sales, so it is safe to say that brands and retailers need to focus their efforts on pricing, innovation, unique marketing and frictionless experiences if they want a segment of the ever-growing pool of e-commerce users. 

With these insights and go-to strategies for elevating the success of brands and enterprises, Omnia is excited to see what the e-commerce landscape will be for our customers and other growing e-commerce companies.

We’d like to thank all of our speakers - Natalie Berg, Dr Doug Mattheus, Prof. Hermann Simon, Gerrie Smit, Cor Verhoeven and our own Sander Roose - and our host, Suyin Aerts, for their knowledge and time spent at Price Points Live 2024. 

Watch keynote presentations here.