In conversation with Markus Fuchshofen and Jörg Rewer on Content Carousel – the digital value added chain


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2016)

For most companies, the efficient creation of content is fundamental, as it is the prerequisite for the successful sales of their own products. One of them is bonprix, a subsidiary of the Otto Group and an international fashion retailer. Today, the former mail-order company is – with 29 online shops worldwide – a successful e-commerce player celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Mr. Fuchshofen, what does the bonprix brand stand for today? 

Markus Fuchshofen: Our “bonprix – it’s me” claim also sums up the brand. We create fashion that complements the lives of our clientele and we constantly offer inspiring fashion experiences for all women, regardless of their age or dress size. This is achieved with a broad range of products and an outstanding price-performance ratio. We present ourselves as a partner for all fashion issues – also when it comes to children, partners and the home. For this reason, we want to offer a shopping experience at the touchpoints – one that inspires, surprises and is relevant for every single purchaser. 

What are the requirements for positioning yourself in this way? 

M.F.: As an e-driven company, our main focus is of course on continually changing sales channels. These days, smartphones are omnipresent and the impact of social media is huge. This means that we are constantly having to adapt our contents to new requirements. For us, customer centric, emotive and personal contact through outstanding content is of key importance.

In the catalogue business, you were always reliant on attractively presenting content. To what extent do you now require different content?

M.F.: For space reasons, catalogues always limited the amount of usable content for us. Today, the online shop is our central communication platform. Here, these kinds of restrictions no longer apply. At the same time, we have many more possibilities for customised presentation of contents. Here, the picture is the most important element for staging the product at bonprix. We endeavour to not only use lots of pictures with numerous models to showcase an item of apparel in several different colours, we also want to present it within the context of various outfits. This requires a considerably larger amount of content compared to the times when catalogues were the only medium available.

Mr. Rewer, I know Laudert as a media and IT service provider. So I assume you carry out the editing of the pictures on behalf of bonprix?

Jörg Rewer: Yes, but we have also been a photography service provider for the company for many years now. bonprix was actually the driver we discussed the mentioned requirements with as far back as 2010. The special appeal was uniting the innovative creation process and production efficiency. I believe that many service providers haven’t yet understood this. As a result of this successful combination of photographic proficiency and process-oriented working method, we have been able to expand our photographic studio – which was established in 1999 – into an 80 employee-strong content production factory with three sites in Germany.

What do you mean by process-oriented working method?

J.R.: The content creation process is very comprehensive. Among other things, it comprises commissioning and planning, delivering and processing of goods, photography, image selection and finally returning the goods. In collaboration with our customers, we provide the creative components with as much scope as necessary. Simultaneously, we automate all other process components to the greatest possible extent. For this reason, IT plays a hugely important role for us.

Where precisely does IT support you in these processes? 

J.R.: One might think that photography is already digital in this days and age, as a result of digital cameras and Photoshop, for example. However, we have to go one step further: this is about digital transformation including all business processes that are  involved in content creation, for which we require our IT competence. In concrete terms, this is reflected, for example, in our LaudertContentFlow® content logistics software, which is unique in this area. It is used consistently throughout the entire process and enables us – at the press of a button – to comment on all production details, such as the work progress or the capacity utilisation, for example. Meanwhile, we have achieved an extremely high level of automation with it. 

So far, we talked exclusively about pictures. Mr. Fuchshofen, what significance does other product information have for your company? 

M.F.: It goes without saying that the product image is the decisive sales tool for us. However, detailed descriptive texts and various product features are also crucial. We have carried out a variety of tests with product videos and discovered that their selective deployment is the most prudent approach for us. 

Mr. Rewer, how does the creation of further product information fit into your content process?

J.R.: On the basis of the products supplied to us, we offer our customers the possibility of providing all contents – such as pictures, videos and texts, for instance – for placement on the various sales channels. In many cases, we upload the product information created directly to the connected customer systems; the PIM or the shop systems, for example. The modules that make up a content creation process depend of course on the requirements of the respective enterprise. A fashion retailer such as bonprix generally has a different focus than industrial enterprises. In addition to the probably most important content element, the picture, also drafting and translating texts, producing videos and creating product features are among the other modules covered by the process. The combination of content modules generates additional savings, as certain preliminary work only needs to be carried out once. Just imagine a fashion photo-shoot with a model. If you are toying with the idea of presenting videos of this on your sales channels, the right time to do this would be directly after taking the photographs. The model will be wearing the item of apparel and has been elaborately styled in preparation for the photo shoot.

M.F.: I can only concur with that. We have intensively thought about the optimum process for promoting our products. In particular, we have paid great attention to effectively dovetailing various departments, such as the former catalogue production and the e-commerce divisions, with the aim of creating the foundations for our multi-channel activities. For this purpose, we develop the majority of our IT system landscape in-house. 

Mr. Rewer, what role does selecting the right systems for managing production information play in your opinion? 

J.R.: Generally, a system with PIM, MAM and workflow components provides the basis for successful multi-channel management. As a manufacturer and integrator of well-known systems, we are very aware that there are numerous solutions available; each with their respective strengths and weaknesses and whose technical implementation is today routine. Nevertheless, they are frequently not workable as no actual contents are present and also no sustainable process has been developed to create new content. Within the context of their concepts, system manufacturers and, in part, even integrators assume that content will somehow be created. Many service providers do not care about where this might come from and how it could be generated. However, this is essential for the client companies. It is precisely for this reason that we regard the content creation process as a frequently under-appreciated aspect of such projects.

What do you both believe will be the most important development for your respective companies with regards to content over the next few years?

M.F.: The share of business conducted by the online shop is constantly growing. Here, we would like to tailor our content even more closely to the individual. Each week, we develop new stories from the perspective of our customers or expand existing stories with the purpose of offering additional trend updates and new looks. We are also intensively focusing on the topic of online consultation. For this, we will soon offer tools for customised fashion advice for various product ranges and continue to expand this service. Furthermore, we are also committed to ensuring that all contents are kept in a media-neutral form, so that they can also be universally used for new marketing concepts.

J.R.: Today, we are already facing the challenge that the volume of content to be created has increased dramatically and will continue to do so. At the same time, production periods are becoming ever shorter – at the same prices and consistently high quality. It is precisely for these reasons that we are not relying solely on photography. We are supplementing this with our image-editing competence and CGI; in other words, computer-generated images. Before spending hours laying expensive parquet flooring as the backdrop for a picture, it makes much more sense to create this using CGI and then merge it with the photograph. We believe we are superbly prepared for the future, as we can always select the optimum combination for specific customer requirements from our three modules: photography, image processing and CGI. Furthermore, we really see a trend towards also creating content directly onsite at the companies’ logistics centres. This streamlines the overall process as a result of dispensing with additional shipment costs.

Markus Fuchshofen has been Managing Director of bonprix Handelsgesellschaft mbH since July 2016, where he is responsible for e-commerce online marketing, sales, brand and advertising. He has been working at bonprix since 1994, responsible for various areas, including the strategy development for the transition from a mail-order business into an e-driven company.

Jörg Rewer has been Managing Partner at Laudert GmbH + 
Co. KG since 2007 and is responsible for the media IT division. Back in the late 1980s, he was active in processing text and image media content in digital form, paving the way for a career in the efficient and IT-supported publishing of content for various channels.

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bonprix relies on Laudert as an experienced partner to implement its own communication strategy. Laudert – with its 420 employees – is one of the top-performing companies for media-focussed IT projects. At bonprix, Laudert placed the focus on process consultation and the implementation of the bonprix-specific requirements.

Laudert GmbH + Co. KG

Picture credits © Anthony Fomin/Unsplash

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