Customer Story

Conrad Electronic: Disrupting online retail

conrad electronic hero image 960 x 415 for web

As Conrad transitions from a B2C retailer to an advanced B2B and B2C platform for electronic products, it is using Google solutions to grow its customer base, develop on a reliable cloud infrastructure, and digitize its workplaces and retail stores.

Google Cloud Results

Conrad Connect supports 5x the IoT connections versus competitors

• Offers new services for mobility and IoT-enabled devices

• Empowers employees to provide better customer service

• Increases sales and market share with effective omnichannel marketing

• Accelerates time to market while reducing IT development and testing time by 25%

The rise of e-commerce turned the world of traditional retail upside down, putting pressure on prices and ratcheting up the competition. For many, it’s an opportunity to innovate and thrive.

Conrad Electronic, a 95-year-old family-run company, is fully embracing the new opportunities. Conrad saw the future decades ago, launching one of the first online shops in Europe in 1997. As its e-commerce business evolved, Conrad saw new avenues ahead that would disrupt the current landscape. It began expanding from a traditional B2C retailer to an advanced B2B e-procurement platform.

With a high focus on innovation and a broad portfolio of product offerings, Conrad set out to become the leading European marketplace for technology and electronics. Integral to achieving this goal is Conrad Connect, an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that connects almost 50 brands with thousands of smart products.

Connecting with the customer journey

To achieve its vision, Conrad needed automated, personalized marketing with reliable analytics. Several years ago, the company partnered with Google and began using Google Ads to get the highest return from its marketing budget.

“We found that Google Ads has the best system for precisely targeting customer segments in both the B2B and B2C spaces,” says Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer at Conrad Electronic. “We also saw that customers usually start with a Google search or YouTube video for inspiration, so this was a natural place to engage with them.”

Over the years, Conrad worked with Google to explore even more possibilities. The company is open to trying new strategies and aims to be at the forefront of testing to be faster, more flexible, and more agile than its competitors. For example, Conrad uses Google Analytics to better understand its advertising ROI and view all data in a single place, instead of using internal BI dashboards to manually track online and offline attribution models. By tracking what customers are doing before coming into the store, Google Analytics is supporting a mobile-first strategy.

“We found that Google Ads has the best system for precisely targeting customer segments in both the B2B and B2C spaces. It used to be hard to gain the right insights to accurately measure our marketing spend and impacts. With Google Analytics, we can better connect the omnichannel customer journey.” Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

“It used to be hard to gain the right insights to accurately measure our marketing spend and impacts,” says Aleš. “With Google Analytics, we can better connect the omnichannel customer journey. User IDs and beacons reveal what customers searched for when they came to our store, as well as what they bought in the past.”

Conrad is working with Google to optimize performance for its mobile sites and offer customers even better experiences. It’s also targeting mobile customers with Google local inventory ads, allowing them to reserve inventory for pickup. Using its brick-and-mortar stores as fulfillment hubs, Conrad offers two-hour product delivery to all major German cities. With services like Click & Collect or Reserve & Collect, B2B customers can choose from more than a million products instead of being limited to a single store’s inventory of approximately 35,000 items.

“Google helps us strengthen omnichannel marketing by creating a strong connection between the online and offline worlds,” says Aleš. “We can offer customers the same huge array of choices they would have at a much larger store, and we get more value from our physical locations.”

Creating a digital culture

Nurturing a culture of collaboration and innovation requires disrupting traditional business models, prompting Conrad to create the position of Chief Digital and Disruption Officer and hire Aleš.

“To compete against big e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Alibaba, we need to be more agile and innovate faster,” says Aleš. “That means using cloud-based productivity tools.”

“Google Workspace made it easy for our users to get comfortable with the cloud. Because employees view Google as an industry leader, moving to Google Workspace was met with celebration, especially among younger staff who intuitively understand the benefits. It also helps us more effectively collaborate with external companies.” Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

When Aleš joined the company, Conrad employees were using Lotus Notes along with 10 separate applications for communication and collaboration—a costly, inflexible approach that limited user productivity. Still, discussions about moving to the cloud were met with some internal resistance from employees who were concerned about the change.

“We compared Google Workspace to Office 365 and decided that Google Workspace made it easy for our users to get comfortable with the cloud,” says Aleš. “Because employees view Google as an industry leader, moving to Google Workspace was met with celebration, especially among younger staff who intuitively understand the benefits. It also helps us more effectively collaborate with external companies.”

Conrad moved all of its approximately 4,000 employees to Google Workspace in just four months. Now all employees have access to a productivity suite, whereas previously the company’s store and warehouse employees did not because legacy tools were too expensive and complicated for all employees to use. Google Workspace immediately increased the level of communication and information sharing across countries, giving all Conrad employees a voice.

Digitizing the lifecycle of each employee helped decrease paper usage in stores significantly and enable anytime, anywhere information access. It also improves data security, enabling the company to quickly delete data from Google Workspace or disable user accounts if mobile devices are lost. This is especially beneficial for employees visiting the company’s B2B customers or working in retail stores.

“With our internal data already in the cloud, we thought, why not pursue a cloud-first strategy and reap the cost savings, time savings, and security benefits?” says Aleš.

A high-performance cloud foundation

To build and scale its online presence and e-commerce analytics, Conrad uses Google Cloud Platform. Cooperation between Conrad and Google was a natural fit because both companies continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to technology and service.

“We compared Google Cloud Platform to competitors and found that Google has a clear advantage,” says Aleš. “Google offers powerful APIs, most of which are open and free, and a diverse set of managed cloud services. Google also provided strong support for our transition to the cloud, offering helpful workshops and training.”

Conrad previously used a hosting provider for its e-commerce site and hosted its internal business applications on-premises. Today, Conrad is moving legacy systems onto Google Cloud Platform to explore new technical possibilities. Every new system is launched in the cloud. The company built its Conrad Connect IoT platform on Google Cloud Platform, enabling Smart Home systems that work with Google Assistant.

Approximately 70% of the company’s business is now conducted online, and Conrad is moving further in that direction. As the company evolves its business, having a stable and inventive cloud services provider will help it achieve its goals. Conrad also benefits from strong and scalable performance for its IoT and e-commerce platforms, with the ability to manage more than 250 million data sets per week in Conrad Connect and over 5 million searches per month on Conrad.de.

“We saw a need for IoT products from different companies to communicate well together. Building Conrad Connect on Google Cloud Platform helped us capitalize on that opportunity and get to market faster. In one year, with a small team, we developed IoT connections to almost 50 different brands. What a great efficiency achievement!” Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

Better customer experiences

Conrad uses technology to make its retail stores more customer friendly, creating connections between touch screens, wall screens, and customers’ mobile phones. Using 800 Android mobile devices and 100 Google Chromebooks, sales clerks can find the right products for customers and use different omnichannel fulfillments. Conrad is also testing digital signage at retail stores, using Google Chrome Enterprise licensing for the most comprehensive feature set. It even sells Google Home voice-activated speakers to employees at high discounts so they can practice interacting with Google Assistant at home and show customers the true value of smart systems.

By improving internal communications and demonstrating authentic use cases for Smart Home technology, Conrad is improving customer experiences in its retail stores and increasing sales. “The ability to connect everything into one environment and combine collaboration, video, and digital signage opens up a lot of possibilities to our employees,” says Aleš. “Smart products drive new technologies, and customers can see how the smart systems work when employees show them how they use it.”

Building an IoT platform

As Conrad seeks to evolve from a traditional retailer to a digital company, Conrad Connect is the company’s way forward, serving as a flagship IoT platform to connect all smart products with a single dashboard and automated rules.

“We saw a need for IoT products from different companies to communicate well together,” says Aleš. “Building Conrad Connect on Google Cloud Platform helped us capitalize on that opportunity and get to market faster. In one year, with a small team, we developed IoT connections to almost 50 different brands. What a great efficiency achievement!”

With the ability to smoothly scale to support its growing customer base, Conrad IT staff can focus on delivering new services and introduce updates every two weeks. As a result, the company’s overall market share in Smart Home technology is growing.

“Google Cloud Platform helped us introduce and support five times the amount of IoT connections compared to our competitors in the same timeframe, while reducing our IT development and testing time by 25%,” says Aleš.

“Google is helping us think about old processes in new ways and automate previously time-consuming tasks. Change is happening, and we can embrace it instead of being held back by old ways of working.” Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

Driving positive cultural change

By creating a transparent and collaborative environment, Conrad encourages employees to share responsibility and take more ownership. As a result, they feel empowered to solve problems on their own. They also have more independence, albeit in a more controlled, secure environment.

“New deployments are happening daily or weekly now because people are not buried by bureaucracy or resource constraints,” says Aleš. “Business users can easily do trials and change how requirements are tested and defined. We can do long-term planning while accounting for other factors that may change quickly.”

Employees are getting into the cloud mindset, aware of the new possibilities. For example, when the marketing department uploads a product photo, previously an employee wrote the copy and then manually translated it into different languages for the 12 countries where Conrad maintains a presence. Now, that process is fully automated from end to end, using Google Cloud Vision API and Google Cloud Translation API to analyze image content and then translate the descriptions.

“Google is helping us think about old processes in new ways and automate previously time-consuming tasks,” says Aleš. “Change is happening, and we can embrace it instead of being held back by old ways of working.”

“We want to offer a complete digital ordering and support ecosystem, establish an independent, brand-neutral IoT platform, and be the partner our customers turn to for help in implementing their technical ideas. By providing groundbreaking technology, Google is helping us get there.” Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital and Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

Offering new products and services

In the coming years, Conrad will move more systems to the cloud and expand its online inventory to millions of products, many of them connected by IoT. The company also introduced a crowdsourcing platform called Conrad Friends that enables users to connect with tech-savvy people in their area. Users can contact Conrad Friends via voice commands using Google Assistant and Google Home to get help installing and configuring products that Conrad sells. Conrad is also exploring machine learning models for automated service and support chats using Google Dialogflow Enterprise Edition. With help from Apigee, a cross-cloud API platform, Conrad is enabling large B2B customers to seamlessly connect their procurement systems to Conrad’s product catalog, allowing Conrad to serve new types of customers.

“We want to offer a complete digital ordering and support ecosystem, establish an independent, brand-neutral IoT platform, and be the partner our customers turn to for help in implementing their technical ideas,” adds Aleš. “By providing groundbreaking technology, Google is helping us get there.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.