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Zalando tackles the challenges with linking online and offline

By Vivian Hendriksz

21 Jun 2016

Retail

German online retail giant Zalando is well aware of the challenges faced with linking the online store and the physical brick and mortar store.

The German retailer recently welcomed Adidas as its first international brand partner to join its fashion platform with local stock. Customers in Berlin are now able to order online at Zalando and have the Adidas item shipped from the store, as part of the retailer's vision to create an integrated commerce which fulfills the demands of today's consumers. ​If this pilot proves to be a success, Zalando aims on creating a network of brands and stores for its customers across Europe.

"Every brand, whether selling online or in stationary stores or both, has a vision of being accessible and available to as many potential customers as possible, but the online landscape is vast and hard to navigate," said Christoph Lange, VP Brands Solutions at Zalando to FashionUnited. "How can retailers make their mark in the already crowded online world?

The German retailer stresses that customers are keen to have a single point of contact, where they can easily locate all the items they want, no matter where they are. Although more and more consumers are shopping online or via mobile, 90 percent of the product stock is still kept in stores, creating a "gap between the customer presence online, and the digital range of products."

"The Zalando platform offers a new way to connect our brand partners and their own stock to new customers online," added Lange. "It will allow partners to directly plug into the platform to upload products and receive orders. While the process behind Integrated Commerce sounds easy, its implementation requires a wide range of technological expertise, and confronts retailers and Zalando with major challenges."

Some of the challenges encountered by Zalando included were: ensuring the accuracy of store stock levels was being communicated in real-time, creating and sharing content online, creating logistic solutions to make it easier to connect local stores to Zalando and linking accounting systems. However, the retail company is working on a number of solutions together with brands and stores to realize its goals.

"In the future, our partner brands will have the possibility to operate the technological components required to onboard products, define prices, quantities, and its location on our platform. They will also be able to complete general order fulfilment, customer returns, and financial processes such as payments. This gives brands independence within the platform, rather than relying solely on Zalando to be integrated and individually positioned."

Photos: Courtesy of Zalando