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According to Google, babymarkt.de is one of the fastest online shops in Germany in terms of speed. For the year 2019, Babymarkt expects sales growth of 170 million Euro. In an interview with Luna Journal, Bastian Siebers, CEO of babymarkt.de, talks about the foundation of long-term growth.
You can look back on a 15-year success story. How did you succeed in changing from a stationary retailer to a pioneer in e-commerce?
Bastian Siebers, Chairman of the Management Board of babymarkt.de GmbH: “Right from the start, we saw enormous potential in e-commerce, which we had to tap to the full. By means of various measures – both in shop technology and in strategy – we were able to secure ever larger market shares, so that we can now claim market leadership in the area of baby and toddler equipment. Since 2010, we have been using our internal development department as a growth engine to further develop our shop and ERP software to meet individual requirements. The strategic realignment we implemented in 2015 has really got us moving. As part of this, we have created our own technological platform in addition to a uniform international brand presence. Decisive for our rise to the top is babymarkt’s unique DNA of technological progress, innovative actions, team spirit, diligence and ambition. We are digital with heart and mind. With this growth lever, we will continue to advance our pioneering position.
In 2004 you opened your own online shop for baby and children’s equipment. How was the response of your customers at the beginning?
Of course, we also started small. However, two circumstances paved the way for a rapid rise: First, the demand for baby and toddler products was promising right from the start. And secondly, we work absolutely customer-oriented: Family-friendly prices, a wide selection of quality products and an unrestricted service philosophy are exactly what our target group wants. And yet our customers can also find all the advantages of stationary retail on babymarkt.de – and we are constantly developing these further. In this way we were able to turn the fundamental interest into success in a short time. Quite apart from the fact that it is part of our success to put a smile on the face of every family.
How has babymarkt managed to grow so rapidly over the years?
With our online shop we have exactly hit the nerve of our customers: online shopping on babymarkt.de is comfortable, possible around the clock and offers an incomparable shopping experience with a huge selection at unbeatable prices. Every day we work anew on giving our customers a feeling of happiness in our shop. In addition to the increasing demand, our strong team is mainly responsible for this. Although a lot has happened in the last 15 years, the unique team spirit remains our biggest growth lever and guarantee of success. Together we have set the first course for success, which set the growth in motion. As our efforts grew, we were able to gradually shift up a gear and ultimately outpace the competition. A lot of work, know-how and commitment are behind this result.
In the beginning, a handful of employees were hired at your company, in the meantime the staff has increased to 480. To what extent has your personnel marketing changed over the years?
The foundation for long-term growth is our diverse team, which we are constantly expanding with new skills. An important decision here was the restructuring from the german more formal title “Sie“ to the german “Du“ – both internally and towards our customers. On an internal level, the Duz culture has resulted in a much stronger cohesion and spirit, which has ultimately increased the performance of the individual teams and employees. By turning this seemingly small screw, we have ensured that all employees now meet at eye level. Of course, this also becomes visible to the outside world. In addition, we attach great importance to the advancement of our employees and, in addition to numerous employee benefits, we offer career opportunities. With our 14 European and Chinese online shops, our team is also becoming increasingly international – more than 30 nationalities are now represented at babymarkt.
To what extent the needs of your target group have changed over the years.
As far as product selection is concerned, there have actually been hardly any drastic changes in the needs of our target group. As before, expectant parents and families have unrestricted safety requirements, so the products themselves must be safe to use and also guarantee the safety of the child. However, the growing share of mobile shopping is catching the eye more and more. Already now about 80 % of the accesses to our online shop take place via the Smartphone, tendency rising. This makes a future-proof mobile strategy all the more important for our success.
How important is a work-life balance for your employees?
The satisfaction of our employees is enormously important to us. We therefore take various measures to ensure the well-being of each individual team member and increase team cohesion. These include recreational activities such as massages, advantage programmes and fitness, as well as company pension schemes. We also attach great importance to joint events and, for example, were able to compete with 210 participants in the B2Run in Dortmund with the title “Fittest Company”. This gives us a decisive advantage on the job market in the War for Talents.
They strategically realigned the company in 2015. What does this mean?
Here we have completed two decisive developments in parallel: Firstly, the German-language babymarkt online shops and their separate international counterparts have been relaunched and have since been united under a common brand strategy, design and logo. With the symbolism surrounding the new logo, babymarkt’s heart is now also beating visibly for the customer. We have broken up the monolithic structure of the oxide and added a microservice-based in-house development. “Zorro” fulfils our claim of being one of the fastest online shops in Germany by increasing speed by 80 %.
According to Google, babymarkt is one of the fastest online shops in Germany in terms of speed. What is your ranking strategy?
The customer always comes first, so we aim for the best possible usability. This starts with the visual appearance and leads to various processes in the backend and further improvements. In addition to increasing the speed of our online shop, we focus on targeted SEO work and pursue a mobile first strategy. This is how we secure the first places in the search engines.
To what extent do you differ from other online shops?
Through our holistic approach: “Click. Click. Happiness”. At babymarkt this is more than just a promise, because the satisfaction of our customers is our greatest asset and always our claim. Thanks to untiring commitment, first-class products at family-friendly prices and a comprehensive range of services, we can almost completely fulfil this claim, as numerous awards for our online shop prove. We see ourselves as reliable support for families and maintain open and trusting communication with our customers. This clearly sets babymarkt apart from the competition. In addition, we turn a digital order into a personal shopping experience based on trust and closeness – and that very successfully. After all, birth and children are highly emotional topics.
Which products from the baby and children’s equipment segment generate high sales?
The entire topic of original equipment accounts for a high proportion of our sales. This is due to the fact that in this phase of the family adventure many products have to be purchased that are also rather expensive. These include children’s rooms, prams and child seats. In addition, all purchases involving initial equipment are extremely emotionally charged by the customers – after all, they only want the best for their own offspring. In addition, we are also thinking about the next big and small steps in growth and development: from fashion and toys to learning and school materials, we accompany families all the way to their children’s school enrolment.
To what extent have you adapted your assortment over the years?
At the beginning, the product range in the online shop was of course clearly laid out, not much in need of explanation and rather in the low-price segment. Today we are a full-range supplier and our product range is becoming more and more versatile. As a result of internationalisation at the European level, the German assortment is growing by international champions. With over 100,000 articles in our range, we fulfil a 360° requirement so that our customers can find everything to do with baby and toddler outfitting here.
In 2018 they generated sales of 144.4 million euros. How do you plan to increase sales in the future?
Of course we remain ambitious! In 2019, we expect further sales growth to around 170 million euros. We also want to break further records in 2020 and extend our lead. In principle, the interaction of the various departments is essential for this: hand in hand, we will develop further target groups, further expand our European market leadership and develop into a global brand. In concrete terms, this means picking up on current trends and developments and tailoring them specifically to us. Although mobile shopping already plays an important role for the baby market today, we are far from having reached the end of our possibilities here. Equally important for us is a focus on personalisation and customer loyalty, which will bring us a good leap forward in both the short and long term. For example, our “babypoints” customer loyalty programme is currently only available in Germany and France. As early as next year we would like to offer “babypoints” in all international shops and are looking forward to seeing how our customers will accept this offer. Another important issue for 2020 is the relocation of our administration: currently, our office buildings in Dortmund no longer offer enough space for the strong growth in personnel. We are still divided into two buildings. This will change in the middle of next year when the O-Werk, which is currently being built in the former administration of the Opelwerk in Bochum, becomes our new home: The new open-space offices will then offer completely new opportunities for continuous exchange and shorter decision-making paths.
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