As online retailer Zalando has its sights set on becoming an open fashion platform and perhaps even the number one technological company in Europe, the German company has begun extending its partnerships with brands as part of its ongoing strategy. Part of this scheme includes a pilot, which Zalando started with sportswear company adidas, which connects the brands' warehouses through software system Anatwine and offers customers access to a wider adidas assortment. Known as the "Zalando Partner Program," the test phase allows shoppers freedom to purchase adidas product directly through the company, even if they are sold out on Zalando.
In order to learn more about this partnership, and how it affects all parties, FashionUnited took a moment to speak to David Schneider, Co-Founder and member of the board at Zalando, Harm Ohlmeyer, Senior Vice President of Sales Strategy & Excellence at adidas and Chris Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of Anatwine.
David Schneider, Co-Founder of Zalando
1) Tell us more about this new partnership - where did the idea originally stem from?
David Schneider: "Our vision is to connect people and fashion, to connect people and brands. We want to give customers complete access to brands assortment, to make products available for our customers and take away all limitations. Why should we limit the customers to what we decide to buy in and the assortment we physically have in stock? You will always have limited availability and limited stock and that is why we put a lot of effort into connecting all stock."
“That is why we want to work closer with brands to be able to provide that to them. Anatwine service can provide brand partners like adidas with a highly customized and reliable integration solution, enabling them to sell their merchandise through our platform. And we can still offer products even if our stock is empty as adidas owns control of their stock and can directly connect to the customers through the Zalando platform.”
2) How will this pilot affect Zalando’s existing platform?
Schneider: “We are moving from a pure retail business to a fashion platform which offers further opportunities to the customers. We make more products available and cover size outages. Customers are able to see all stock and chose whatever they want without being limited to what we buy for whatever reason. And I think this is something we can extend in the future.”
3) Why did adidas chose to work with Zalando on this pilot? How will it affect them in turn?
Harm Ohlmeyer: “The ULTIMATE goal for both of us is to fulfil consumer demand. We are more than happy to support additional demand for adidas products via Zalando. We have chosen to work with Zalando at this early stage because the company is on the verge of becoming a technology company with all tech capabilities needed, and not just a retailer.”
“I think that it will drive consumer satisfaction on both sites, as we are connecting our retail doors with real time inventory. Just picture the learning for the future: we can plan for the future looking at what we sold in the past and now we get the true demand picture from the consumer that we can learn from on both sides. It is a win-win situation for three partners sharing the same vision.”
Harm Ohlmeyer, Senior Vice President of Sales Strategy & Excellence at adidas
4) Why did Zalando chose to work with adidas for the pilot scheme?
Schneider: “I think adidas is a company that is quite advanced within their own corporations and we work very closely together anyway. This is a strong partnership where we can build on and further develop in the future for other initiatives connected to our platform strategy. adidas is a partner that is open to try out new things and generate a better offer to our customers.”
5) In what way will this partnership benefit Zalando and its customers?
Schneider: “For us it’s the same thing, for our customers the huge added value is the additional availability. It’s very important we keep standards high, for example in terms of product presentation, shooting requirements for products or the service level. This keeps up the quality level we have - as it’s not only about the availability. That is why we chose to work directly with the brands, especially adidas as they have very good own operations with that kind of transparency for stock. And I think if you put all those aspects together, it offers a way better benefit for the customer.”
6) What is Anatwine role in this partnership?
Chris Griffin: “What was really exciting about all this from an Anatwine perspective is that we are three parties with a shared vision. Our goal is to combine the Adidas vision, the Zalando vision and the Anatwine and in turn provide access to a wide set of inventory whilst also maintaining a consistent customer experience. Anatwine acts as an enabler to connect these goals and provide the technology our clients need to achieve both the business and consumer expectation.”
7) Will the partnership affect delivery times for Zalando/adidas consumers in any way?
Schneider: “We check delivery times quite closely because for us convenience and speed is very important. That’s also why we chose very carefully how we work with partners. From adidas we know that their delivery is very reliable and we can offer the same level of quality to the customer as if it would come from our own operations.”
8) Are the any main differences in the type of consumer who shops online at Zalando or adidas?
Ohlmeyer: "We say there is no such thing as an e-commerce and a brick-and-mortar consumer. There is only one consumer out there and we are definitely moving away from being channel centric to being consumer centric and fulfilling consumer demand wherever it is – independent of the platform. Some norms are different and we are looking at some of the data. There’s definitely some difference and some commonality as well. Zalando.com or adidas.com is only one click away and the consumer is so educated today that we should not worry about any cannibalism. The consumer decides anyway.”
Chris Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of AnatwineGriffin: “I think all three of us agree that the days of channel taking precedent over customer experience is a thing of the past because all channels are now so connected that the customer drives the decision. For an organization to then make a decision that actually hinders the customer experience is potentially an old fashioned way of thinking. It should be obvious that if you are providing a consumer experience that is consistently good on any touch point, and one that is satisfying the customers needs, then ultimately everyone will succeed.”
9) The pilot first launched on November 30th. What impact has it had so far and will Zalando roll it out to other brands?
Schneider: “I think we already saw in the first few days how much potential there is. Just take a look at how big the overall fashion market is in Europe: there is still a lot of room for us. Our vision is to answer all fashion related questions from our customers in the future. While connecting all fashion players, for example, connect adidas and our stock, we’ll create a better shopping experience for our customer.”
“In the future we want to be able to tell the Zalando customer for example which adidas store in their area has stock of the product they want if the customer do not have enough time to order it online. We want to connect the whole fashion world and give customers the full visibility and transparency.”