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Published by: International Institute for Management Development (IMD)
Originally published in: 2022
Version: 30.09.2022
Revision date: 17-Nov-2022

Abstract

By 2021 Zalando had become Europe's largest pure player in online fashion. But the road to success had not always been smooth. Back in 2014, six years after it was founded, the Germany-based company was at a crossroads. With an impending initial public offering (IPO) and investors looking for results, the company was nowhere near being profitable. Zalando realized that to achieve profitability and market leadership, it would have to leverage advanced technology and develop a data-driven supply chain. So, with the innovative spirit of a start-up, it embraced the challenge of building internal digital tools and competencies to drive supply chain efficiencies. The online fashion supply chain had to wrestle with the same challenges of tight margins and high customer expectations familiar to all online retailers. However, the fashion industry faced other unique challenges - high SKU counts, high seasonality, relentless product turnover and frighteningly elevated return rates. By developing proprietary systems and machine learning tools, Zalando developed a responsive, flexible distribution network, trustworthy order promises and a sophisticated, holistic approach to returns management. Through a data-driven journey born out of a crisis, Zalando discovered that these capabilities not only delivered supply chain excellence and pioneering new innovative techniques but also helped to fulfill the company's vision of providing endless choice, seamless convenience and a tailored digital experience to millions of customers across Europe.

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2012-2021.

Geographical setting

Region:
Europe
Country:
Germany

Featured company

Zalando
Employees:
10000+
Turnover:
EUR 10.4 billion
Industry:
Information technology; e-Commerce; Consumer goods; Apparel and fashion

About

Abstract

By 2021 Zalando had become Europe's largest pure player in online fashion. But the road to success had not always been smooth. Back in 2014, six years after it was founded, the Germany-based company was at a crossroads. With an impending initial public offering (IPO) and investors looking for results, the company was nowhere near being profitable. Zalando realized that to achieve profitability and market leadership, it would have to leverage advanced technology and develop a data-driven supply chain. So, with the innovative spirit of a start-up, it embraced the challenge of building internal digital tools and competencies to drive supply chain efficiencies. The online fashion supply chain had to wrestle with the same challenges of tight margins and high customer expectations familiar to all online retailers. However, the fashion industry faced other unique challenges - high SKU counts, high seasonality, relentless product turnover and frighteningly elevated return rates. By developing proprietary systems and machine learning tools, Zalando developed a responsive, flexible distribution network, trustworthy order promises and a sophisticated, holistic approach to returns management. Through a data-driven journey born out of a crisis, Zalando discovered that these capabilities not only delivered supply chain excellence and pioneering new innovative techniques but also helped to fulfill the company's vision of providing endless choice, seamless convenience and a tailored digital experience to millions of customers across Europe.

Settings

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2012-2021.

Geographical setting

Region:
Europe
Country:
Germany

Featured company

Zalando
Employees:
10000+
Turnover:
EUR 10.4 billion
Industry:
Information technology; e-Commerce; Consumer goods; Apparel and fashion

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