Zooplus: ‘We have no ambition to open the gate for other sellers ourselves
In relative silence, zooplus climbed to the upper echelons of the Twinkle100. Roberto Damen, now more than two years on board with the German pure player, still sees plenty of room for growth. He also emphasizes branding: ‘Traditional marketing was not in zooplus’ DNA, but its importance is certainly also great for e-commerce companies.’
Zooplus has its office in the Netherlands at the Hart van Brabantlaan in Tilburg, the geographical center of the province. That we have arrived on the right floor is proven by a man-sized banner in the hall, on which the winnings of two Shopping Awards are communicated. It says ‘Public Award XL Home & Garden’, ‘2018 & 2019’. Two other awards were recently added. Zooplus won the ABN Amro Webshop Award, also a public award, in its category and then took home the overall prize for web shops. The awards are displayed at the reception. ‘Fantastic, this is what you do it for’, says Dutch managing director Roberto Damen proudly. Not unjustly, because the ‘conversion’ can be called enormous; wherever zooplus came and saw, it conquered.
Zooplus had not previously registered for such prizes and had not sought the spotlights in the first place. Damen: ‘When I started here, in October 2017, I brought with me my experience as a product and marketing communications manager, gained at Philips, among others. I know the importance of a multi-channel approach and know that traditional marketing is very relevant and can be very important for e-commerce companies as well. I’ve put that on the agenda here a bit more. Zooplus has been around since 1999 and has grown through online marketing: Google, AdWords, comparators, affiliates, and the like, more traditional marketing was not in the DNA. This is necessary for structural growth, all the more so because the majority of this market is still offline. And I don’t believe those offline buyers will just google “online pet store”.above line campaigns, with activations, with applications for awards. Those prices are a confirmation for yourself and for existing customers, but they also provide a lot of PR; you naturally hope that you will reach people who have not previously thought about buying online.’
Zooplus in the Netherlands
Zooplus is active in thirty European countries. The pure player employs approximately 750 people, 28 of whom work in the Tilburg office. Damen: ‘The head office in Munich provides the basis for technology and purchasing. I am responsible for the turnover, margin, and growth of Zooplus.nl and Bitiba.nl [see box on p. 23, ed.], sites with which we also serve the Belgian market. This includes online marketers, shop managers, and customer care managers, but also local category managers and people who, for example, make banners and print campaigns. We do the whole marketing approach and make sure we comply with all the rules. In short, we are responsible for every touchpoint that has to do with the Dutch or Flemish customer.’
From offline to online
Partly due to Damen’s contribution, international investments are also being made in the name recognition and branding of zooplus. New customers are therefore mainly sought among the large group of people who still go to the pet store. At the moment, the online share is about 15 to 20 percent in the market for pet food and supplies, says the country manager. ‘I expect that in a period of five to ten years, it will go to a fifty-fifty ratio. Part of the market will always remain offline, I think because people like to go to a trusted store to get advice, for example, but the combination of assortment, price, and convenience will attract more and more people online. We must also make these advantages clear, for example, that you can buy multiple scratching posts that can be found in the stone shop. That it can be financially interesting to buy online. That you don’t have to lug around bags of food or cat litter when you order it online in your spare time. We can relieve pet owners of tedious jobs, structurally.’
An increasing proportion of zooplus’ eight thousand articles consists of private label products, although Damen does not want to quantify their contribution to turnover. ‘Those labels have always been interesting because of their time to market and margin, but they have become more important because you can respond so well to trends. Think fresh and organic. These are consumer trends that you also see in animals – we also speak of premiumization and humanization – and which follow each other quickly. With private labels, we fill niches in food, for example when it comes to intolerances. In addition, we fill gaps in the non-food range, such as certain basics or colors. Thanks to the data, we know exactly what customers are missing.’
One order per second
zooplus has no shortage of data, as the largest online player in Europe by far. According to the latest company forecasts, turnover amounted to more than one and a half billion euros last year, on a total market of approximately 26 billion euros. Damen: ‘We are the only pan-European pet specialty store, with an average of one order per second. That scale offers a lot of advantages, apart from purchasing; we can simply test something in one country to see if it works, and we can use that knowledge elsewhere. Thanks to our own European fulfillment network, our stock availability is extremely high. And because we do everything online, we know a lot about our customers, and we can focus on personalization and therefore retention, our most important key performance indicator. Our mobile app is also aimed at this: “order again” is the most important button in the app. The app also gives customers direct insight into the number of saved zooPoints, our loyalty program. More than 40 percent of turnover is now generated via mobile, and that share has grown enormously. Partly because of this, retention has risen to 94 to 95 percent.’
Zooplus was founded in 1999 in Munich. With an estimated annual turnover (2019) of more than one and a half billion euros, it is the second largest seller of pet food and supplies in Europe, behind the also German Fressnapf. Zooplus has been listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange since May 2008. In the following ten years, the company’s turnover grew by an average of 33 percent. The pure player is now active in thirty European countries, with a central backend and country-specific domains. zooplus has twelve fulfillment centers and seven offices spread across the continent; Tilburg hosts one from both categories. After Germany and France, the Netherlands is the third largest market for zooplus. With an online turnover of 85.1 million euros in 2018, the company occupies place 26 in the Twinkle100. Zooplus often collaborates with charities: unsaleable returns go to the DierenLot foundation, zooPoints can be donated in addition to being exchanged for products. 10 percent of the turnover of the own brand zoolove goes to charity, zooplus has also adopted a KNGF guide dog named Enzoo.
To further drive customer loyalty, zooplus is focusing on content, including an online magazine, and new services. Damen: ‘We are going for the long-term relationship, want to cover the entire life cycle of animals, or rather more; it starts with the orientation on the purchase, we then advise on nutrition, possible problems, and illnesses, later we can also play a role around the end of life.’ Zooplus.nl includes an overview of approximately two thousand Dutch veterinarians (the lion’s share), which can be assessed by users. Breeders will also be added to the site, says Damen, who hints at expansion with an asylum search function. Pet owners also have other questions that we can answer: “What do I do with my pet during my holiday?”, for example. “Who can walk my dog?” “Where can I find a good grooming salon?” We will be launching many new services to provide pieces of the life cycle, in which not those suppliers, but our customers are central. We want to make the community stronger so that people keep coming back to us.’
Damen calls zooplus ‘customer-centered’, while bol.com and Amazon are ‘product-centered’. He says he is not nervous about a Dutch entrance by the latter. ‘Whether we ourselves will ever sell on marketplaces? No, that would make the marketplace bigger and lose direct customer relationships. We also have no ambition to open the gate for other sellers ourselves, we would like to be the supplier ourselves and be able to guarantee quality.’
The signals are green for zooplus, with an autonomously growing market, a significant shift from online to offline, a (data) head start on the competition and numerous opportunities to mean even more in the various life stages of animals. Damen: ‘Our platform strategy is to become the platform if we aren’t already. The starting point for pet owners, whatever their needs. They can skip Google and go straight to Zooplus.nl. We strive for more than a one-stop shop because with us you can do more than just shop. Zooplus will be a one-stop address .’
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