We sat down with Ludovic Bonnet, Director of Marketing and Communications & Digital Transformation, France and Europe for Big Mat to talk about his experience with Partoo and how our partnership has improved their digital performance. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

“Partoo is an easy solution because it immediately shows that a digital presence creates in-store traffic.”

Hi Ludovic. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 50 years old and it’s been two and a half years since I joined BigMat, where I’m in charge of Marketing, Communications and Digital Transformation for France and I coordinate the transversal communication for Europe.

I began my career in film distribution in the United States and France, working at Disney, before moving into TV channel creation at Universal studios and telephony at Cegetel (now SFR). 

After that, I was an entrepreneur with a digital strategy production and consultancy firm, and through this company I joined the SNCF, where we created IDTGV. Then I moved to Philip Morris, and my last job before joining BigMat was in the Global Marketing and Communications Department at the CMC Group (Agnès b). And now here I am at BigMat.

Big Mate case study

Tell us about BigMat. 

We are the European leader in the construction materials sector, with some 900 stores generating a turnover of around 3 billion. We are one of the top 3 or 4 players in France, with 286 points of sale.

Given your eclectic background, what differences did you see between the B2C off-the-peg industry and the B2B construction materials industry with regard to the digital sphere?

I’m stating the obvious here but we know that B2B is lagging behind B2C, especially when it comes to digital projects. It’s hard to get things moving when it comes to the heavy machine that is B2B, and it’s even more complicated to manage from our perspective because we are a cooperative.

What do you mean by that? 

In a cooperative, the store managers are the bosses of their own stores, and they might even have more than one. They sign a contract for a certain number of years and represent the brand and all of the associated services, but at the end of the contract they can leave BigMat and go to a competitor and vice-versa, which isn’t the case with a franchise. 

Members are totally independent, and the head office is there to support them in cross-functional matters such as their digital activity. The problem for us is therefore convincing stores to adopt the proposed solutions, or leave them, as the case may be.

The B2C market is represented by franchises that are quicker to integrate new digital solutions.

How did you prioritise this local visibility project? 

Since we’re a co-operative, we started out from the ground up by all sitting around a table together. We needed to boost in-store traffic and ensure a positive experience with up-to-date store information on as many platforms as possible. Partoo is an easy solution because it immediately shows that a digital presence creates in-store traffic, which is why we prefer to use simple tools that don’t require anyone to think about ERP-type information systems. So we’re reassuring our store owners; we’re just adding another layer with a solution that’s quick and easy and that makes money. Digital growth can come from the smallest of things — it doesn’t have to be a major undertaking.

“We needed to boost in-store traffic and ensure a positive experience with up-to-date information on as many platforms as possible.”

What processes have been put in place internally to manage the Partoo solution?

First of all, our head office funded the launch of the solution to give it that initial momentum, then the price was integrated transparently into members’ subscriptions. 

In operational terms, it was quite an arduous task because almost all of our members had created a Google My Business listing, but there was no follow-up to ensure that this information was kept complete and up to date. Then, of course, we had to obtain access to these Google My Business listings so that the Partoo platform could become the administrator of these pages in order to implement the solution. 

So we called our stores and we said “Look, there’s this great company called Partoo that will be giving you a call. You need to give them all your login details and passwords and it’s going to be amazing – you’ll see!”. What followed was then a long process because they didn’t see why they should give an external provider access to their accounts. It took us three to six months of hard work to get their details from them. 

When they saw that this tool was going to help them, in a unique way, to post their store information on Google and obtain reviews, it was the first step in the right direction.

You say that head office managed the solution for the first year and a half, and then establishment groups took over.

Yes, we did it from the top down. We also started with France and the other countries (of which there are 7 in Europe) very quickly followed. This now gives us several layers of information — we have the international perspective, the national perspective and then the regional perspective, thanks to our coordinators.

“We can now can generate an ROI with that number of visits and provide evidence that store owners can relate more easily to.”

It’s important to understand that one of our members, the smallest business, may make €1 million, while the largest business may make €120 million, so we’re talking about different audiences here.

The former already has too much to do in terms of accounting, orders and inventory management, so they need support from their regional managers. The latter, those companies making 100-120 million, already have a Digital Manager, a Director of Communications, and so on. They’re already large SMEs.  

One thing I haven’t mentioned and that’s very important is that we get a great deal of support from Partoo, meaning that there is always someone available and able to give our members the tailored support they need, which is a great source of reassurance for them.

Let’s talk results.

We have 2 types of KPI, the first of which relates to digital visibility, where you have a 350% increase in one year in the number of views your Google listings get as a result of direct searches (e.g. BigMat + town/city) and a 104% increase in indirect research (e.g. building materials + town/city).

Of course, members find it easier to relate to once they start to see results. The solution also has a multiplier effect, so if you’re launching an awareness campaign at the same time, your listings will appear even more on search engines. 

BigMat -KPI

The second category is very business-focused, with a 51% increase in clicks to the website, a 46% increase in route requests and 129% more phone calls.

It is worth remembering that clicks to the website take the Internet user directly to the individual store’s website, rather than to the brand’s website, and this is central to our strategy. 

The phone call KPI is very important in B2B because customers call to make sure that a product is available. Our sector involves some very heavy products, so people won’t risk leaving their site if the product is out stock. 

We can now can generate an ROI with that number of visits and provide evidence that store owners can relate more easily to.


“We haven’t pre-formatted any responses — it is down to the individual store manager to respond in their own tone.”

What E-reputation issues did BigMat face?

If customers are going to get the opportunity to talk about you publicly, you might as well try and control what they say as do nothing, so our initial focus was on improving our SEO, generating more in-store traffic and controlling what was being said about us.

What processes had been put in place for responding to reviews? 

The whole world can see the reviews posted and the responses from the stores in question, so it is vital firstly that we respond to reviews and secondly that we respond to them in the right way. This requires us to train our members in how to respond, and the same goes for Facebook and all the other social networks. 

First of all, Partoo held training sessions at head office, and for members, too, because we wanted to encourage it on a local level. Then we got the most motivated individuals on board, those who really understood the benefits of responding to reviews. After all, if we could get them on our side, they would convince their colleagues and then it would snowball. 

We haven’t pre-formatted any responses — it is down to the individual store manager to respond in their own tone. This may not reflect the tone of the brand, but at the same time, you’re addressing the person in charge of the establishment in question, so they have to be the one who responds to it, in their own tone and their own words. We may be dealing with the digital sphere, but that’s no reason to forget the human connection. 

When you look at the numbers you see a 200% increase in the number of reviews in one year (4,001 in total), a 16% review response rate and a national average rating of 4.1/5. What KPIs do you monitor?

“We may be dealing with the digital sphere, but that’s no reason to forget the human connection.”

The challenge now will be to increase this response rate to boost our rating. Just as you would respond to a quotation, all incoming requests must be dealt with within 48 or 72 hours. The more reviews we deal with, the better our Google SEO will be and the more traffic we will drive to our stores as a result. 

It is important to know that the brand is becoming less and less important because Internet users are now basing their choices increasingly on ratings and information — does it have the products I’m looking for? At the right price? Is the store still open?

It is therefore essential that we be able to rely on our ambassadors to talk about our brand and our products and to answer any questions that other Internet users may have.

In summary, then, the main need identified is to obtain more reviews to improve the business’s rating and therefore its SEO and its image. 

One method that we would recommend in order to achieve this is to send an automatic text message to satisfied customers once they have left the store, asking them to leave a review on Google. This should only be done with their consent, of course. 

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