"We've managed to save craft trades a lot of time by automating a lot of things."
Raphaël Saclé is the founder of Hangers Technologies. His ambition in creating his company? To help the craft trades by developing various technologies to assist them.
It all starts with a dry-cleaning ticket. Raphaël can't find it and finds himself in a quandary. Not only does he have to pay extra, but he also has to wait a long time for his shirt to be found. He tries to understand why the operation is so complicated.
"The launderer explained to me that his business was extremely complex. I quickly realized that there are a huge number of operations and problems in the dry-cleaning sector. Customers are demanding and have certain expectations of the services you provide. At the same time, the work is very demanding for professional customers such as hotels and restaurants. That was a starting point."
This story takes place while Raphaël is still an employee at Amazon. He was preparing for his transfer to the United States. His project fell into his lap unexpectedly, at a time when he was very happy in his position as Product Manager.
"I had a kind of epiphany during my last roadmap at Amazon before leaving for the US: I wanted to revolutionize the way French-style service worked, breathing new life into it with digital."
He organizes his departure on very good terms with his management, training his successor within a few months. Raphaël finds himself unemployed, and starts work on his project. Previously working in the fields of digital and market finance, Raphaël learns day by day about the craft industry and understands its difficulties.
"I took a real leap of faith, I was very far from that world. I discovered freelancers and some very fine companies. It was a real departure from my previous life. I had to understand who I was working with. How do I interact with these professions? What impact would this have on my relationship with my future customers? And how can I become their best ally in their digitalization?"
Raphaël's first product was so successful that he had to turn people away. Then came the first round of fund-raising and unstoppable growth. In 2019, Raphaël's team tackles the bakery market following a call for tenders.
"The bakery came about at the request of a large group. It revolved around a project that had been financed. We saw that we had a real value proposition to make. And we just did it."
In terms of processes, Raphaël realizes that the bakery and dry-cleaning markets are quite similar, with many points in common. We see production management with fairly high turnover cycles. And that this can be applied to other trades too.
"There are other markets we serve because our product already caters for them, such as alterers or shoemakers. But there are also catering trades that have quite similar problems, with several points of sale and production or distribution centers, with a lot of operations."
All these professions need to save time on operational matters, so they can concentrate on their craft and sales. Hangers gives them this time by automating and digitizing their processes as much as possible. They also offer a Click and Collect platform. Hangers reaches out to all sizes of business, and is not closed to any particular sector. So far, it's worked wonderfully well by word-of-mouth.
"In the craft industry, word-of-mouth and reputation work very well. Today, we didn't have to look hard for our customers. They found us. We're putting in place a reinforced business development strategy for 2021, but until then, we've operated purely organically. It was our customers who brought us new customers."
The coronavirus epidemic has accelerated the digitalization of businesses. Previously, the sectors Raphaël worked with were somewhat apprehensive about digitalization, or rather misunderstood the enormous amount of time that could be saved with the right technology. Today, shopkeepers, bakers, dry cleaners, cobblers and butchers save an incredible amount of time thanks to Hangers Technologies.
"Our core business is to digitalize processes and thus improve the customer experience, thanks to the enormous time-savings we help them create. That's our promise, so they can focus on their core business and selling."
Hangers ' business model is also interesting for these professionals: where some take a percentage of sales, Hangers offers a monthly subscription. And that's it! One of Hangers' objectives is to empower its customers and make them self-sufficient.
"The big mistake is to mother them, you have to teach them things. You have to transform them, they're people who need to be in control of their destiny. We have to teach them to be a player in the digital transformation. That's what we're going to give them. These are the keys."
Raphaël and his team sell more than just a technological solution: they accompany their product with specific training so that the customer masters the tools perfectly on his own.
"Everything is very well documented, so our customers are not infantilized. A good customer relationship means teaching your customers to take ownership of the tool you offer them, and not just calling up at the slightest problem. That's a bad reflex. We want to avoid this dependency effect and make the customer the master of the tool they benefit from."
To achieve this, Raphaël's team communicates extensively to its customer base, with frequent newsletters featuring updates, added value and additional services to help customers save time and money.
When I talk to him about the coronavirus epidemic, Raphaël explains that it's a tragedy for these professions, but that he does see some positives.
"It's very encouraging for what's to come, because I think that French-style service has a bright future ahead of it, and will be able to transform itself and be more in tune with the times. Of course, in the short term, what's happening with this epidemic is very unfortunate, everyone's suffering, but in the long term we're going to see some great transformations. People who hang in there will come out of it with extra weapons. They're going to be more productive in their jobs, and much more attentive to digital levers that they didn't know about before, and that they're starting to appropriate. Ultimately, this will make them stronger."
When I ask Raphaël what message he wants to get across to the craft trades, he tells me to stay the course, and to dare to be accompanied by players like Hangers in their digitalization.
"There are players, including Hangers, who are capable of supporting them in this digitalization of their business, and they have everything to gain. It's in diversity that we can also find opportunities.
With business slowing down, it's time to take a step back from what we're doing. We've been successfully supporting our customers' digitalization projects for several years, and we've never lost a customer. We're delighted to be supporting all these different players by offering them a forward-looking solution for their digitalization."
We wish Hangers Technologies, Raphaël and all their customers all the best for the future.