What do Antelopes Have to do With E-Commerce?

Alexander Graf, CEO of the tech company Spryker Systems, has also become one of the country's leading e-commerce experts thanks to the blog and podcast Kassenzone.de. In our interview, he talks about trends, antelopes and the future of online commerce.

Alexander, what is the connection between you and antelopes?

The antelope is the ‘heraldic animal’ of Spryker and the code name of our main investor, whose internal project name was ‘Project Oryx’ until its founding. The oryx is a type of antelope - the only one that can take on lions. Project Oryx was initially called Project A. When we evolved from it, we remembered that original project name, and the antelope as a figurative mark was born.

And why the name Spryker?

We needed a name that was easy to remember, but also had a free .com domain and the possibility to register it as a trademark. Spryker is based on the word ‘spry’, which means ‘agile’ and ‘energetic’, among other things. That describes our software very well.

It's about selling more efficiently and not necessarily about selling better products.

Alexander Graf

What's so special about your e-commerce business model?

The oldschool e-commerce systems, which we used to implement with our customers, were not really designed to represent new and complex e-commerce models. They didn’t really allow us to distinguish ourselves from the competition. And that's what it's all about today. It's about selling more efficiently and not necessarily about selling better products. Selling more efficiently in 2019 almost always means using better technical solutions, especially in software development. And that's why we founded Spryker. Because the market has changed.

What does a successful e-commerce strategy look like?

In a world of mounting diversity of devices and continuously increasing customer demands coupled with rising competitive pressure, the only companies who survive are the ones that constantly reinvent themselves, continuously challenge their business model and tweak it to meet their customers’ needs - or reignite their interest. That, in turn, is only possible if implementation is fast and efficient. The faster ones win. Companies releasing something relevant to their customers five times a day eventually overcome billion-euro corporations that possibly only manage to do this twice a year. That’s the only way sustainable scenarios like mobile apps, IoT, blockchain technology or bot and voice integration can be successfully tested for their relevance to the respective business.

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Everyone always says that e-commerce is the future and that store-based retail is dead. Is that true?

It’s neither wrong nor right. I don’t believe that you can make money selling replaceable goods from A to B in the foreseeable future. The trade margin is dropping due to the growing impact of digital platforms. This is just as true for store-based models as it is for online models. It’s a bit slower in the B2B segment, but it still applies as well. Business models that facilitate faster and more efficient development towards services are better off. And again, whoever can develop better and more efficient software solutions, comes out ahead.

How will the landscape for the wholesale and retail industry change?

I believe that over the next two to three years we will see more changes than over the last 15 years combined. Many business models that should have gone bust survived only thanks to the massive economic boom and cheap money. These models are now dropping off very quickly, making way for old vendors that are evolving more rapidly and, of course, for many new market players.

How can retailers and tech start-ups join forces? To put it in more specific terms: What led to the closer cooperation with METRO-NOM, the tech division of METRO?

Again, customer focus helps. Where do I need to become faster? Which internal processes can I not structure efficiently? If you can answer those questions with a tech start-up, you will usually find a suitable match quickly. And that's exactly how things got started between METRO and Spryker. At some point, Timo [Timo Salzsieder, CIO/CSO METRO AG und CEO von METRO-NOM, editor's note] simply called and asked if we could meet.

Alexander Graf, CEO of the tech company Spryker Systems

He is the e-commerce expert and has been well-versed in the industry and its many changes for quite some time. Alexander Graf is the founder and CEO of Spryker Systems in Berlin, one of the leading e-commerce software companies. Before that he was responsible for the design, valuation and M&A of digital business models for Otto Group from 2007 to 2011 as a senior consultant. The business administration and computer science graduate provides all sorts of companies with advise in online strategies and transformation processes. Graf is also publisher of the Kassenzone.de e-commerce blog and author of numerous expert articles and books.

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