Since its launch in 2018, Zalando’s Connected Retail program has come a long way. Especially from the beginning of the past year onward, it has become an integral part of the solution for many retailers during the pandemic and lockdown periods. During last year’s Cyber Week, Connected Retail accounted for 11% of GMV in Germany, with over 2,000 retailers taking part. Since then, the program has been rolled out to eight more markets, giving retailers in 13 of the 23 Zalando markets easy access to millions of Zalando customers online. Today, over 6,000 retailers have joined Connected Retail and made it part of their digital strategy.
We sat down with Christian Schmidt, Assistant to Management at Bekleidungshäuser Karl Vockeroth GmbH – which joined Connected Retail in early 2020 – to learn more about their long-term-strategy and what role Connected Retail plays in it.
Your business joined Connected Retail in early 2020. Was this decision based on the effects of the pandemic?
It was already clear to us that we needed to transform our business to make it ready for the future. Therefore, we set the course for Connected Retail at the end of 2019 and, fortunately, we were able to start right away at the end of March 2020 – just when stores had to close. Our employees were extremely happy because they didn't have to go on full short-time work. We have transformed our stores into logistics hubs and have simply given it a go. Nobody really knew at the beginning. In retrospect, we have to say that it has been a complete success.
You joined during a period when stores were closed. What has changed since stores opened again?
It’s definitely different, and also difficult sometimes. About 85% of our employees are fashion consultants who can’t relate as much to logistics. When our stores were closed, they were all set up like warehouses – no one was interested in how they looked, it just had to work. Now, we need to create a nice ambience again so that customers like coming to us, while handling the logistics at the same time.
How do you integrate it into your business?
Up until now, we have integrated Connected Retail on our shop floor and make it transparent for our customers. We try to manage the selection processes before store opening hours, which works well during normal times. Unfortunately, this doesn't work during sale periods because, fortunately, there are more orders then. Managing all these orders on the shop floor will be challenging – therefore, we are thinking about moving Connected Retail operations to the back of the store to make things easier.
So, will you continue to use Connected Retail during peak season and Cyber Week this year?
Absolutely! Connected Retail marks a great addition to our business. You can sell different articles online rather than in the physical store, which makes our buying process bolder than before. Our stores are located in a rural region, so the very fashionable items do not perform so well in stores, but sell very well online. This encourages us to be a bit bolder when ordering for the new season.
What’s one tip you want to offer potential new joiners of Connected Retail?
Don't aim to make everything perfect, but just do it, get started and then see how it works. There are so many surprises that you’ll discover later. Our philosophy is to just start things, and not to think it through to the smallest detail. And so far, this has worked pretty well.