April 29, 2010, 12:53 PM

Germany’s Otto chooses a U.S. marketing firm to build its global e-commerce

Otto is looking across the Atlantic to an interactive marketing firm to help it launch cross-channel ad campaigns. The move could signal that the company, part of the Otto Group, a major Germany-based retailer, may be taking global marketing more seriously.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Otto is looking across the Atlantic to an interactive marketing firm to help it launch cross-channel ad campaigns. The move could signal that the company, part of the Otto Group, a major Germany-based retailer, may be taking global marketing more seriously.

Otto announced earlier this month that it had purchased campaign and marketing operations software from Unica Corp., which will enable the online giant to mount coordinated e-mail, direct mail and web analytics campaigns, says Jay Henderson, Unica’s director of product marketing.

A statement from Unica says the new software will help Otto “expand its growing footprint and more effectively implement interactive marketing campaigns.”

Although Otto hasn’t specified how it will use Unica’s marketing tools, Unica has recently been upgrading and expanding its suite of products. New capabilities include:

  • Integrating data from social media web sites into Unica’s web analytics system, Unica NetInsight, for expanded reporting and analysis of online trends and behavior.
  • Enabling the social sharing of marketing messages, such as those displayed on web sites by Unica’s personalization product, Unica Interact, or sent via e-mail with Unica’s e-mail marketing offering, Unica eMessage. Unica says these messages can be configured to allow recipients to post the message contents to a Facebook page, Twitter or other social media sites.
  • Increase e-mail marketing effectiveness by incorporating landing pages, microsites, surveys and other data-capture forms into e-mail marketing campaigns.

    And there are other scents of a U.S. push for Otto in the air. The Unica announcement comes around the same time Otto’s e-commerce platform provider, Germany-based Intershop Communications AG, announced a partnership with U.S.-based platform vendor GSI Commerce Inc. The deal gives GSI exclusive rights to distribute Intershop’s e-commerce software in the U.S., which potentially could make it easier for Otto to expand to the States.

    Otto already has established a presence in the U.S. market. The Hamburg, Germany-based conglomerate owns Crate and Barrel, No. 55 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and also a Unica customer.

    It’s too early to know whether the recent moves mean Otto plans to expand more aggressively into the U.S., says Suresh Vittal, vice president of research and advisory firm Forrester Research Inc. But, he says, at the very least, stronger ties to Unica will give Otto a more disciplined focus on marketing than it had in the past.

    Otto and GSI did not immediately return requests for comment.

    Otto Group reported total online sales of 5.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) for its fiscal year ended Feb. 28, 2009. By comparison, Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, reported $24.5 billion in net sales for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009. No. 2 in the Guide is Staples Inc. with $9.8 billion in 2009 sales, followed by Dell Inc. with $4.5 billion. Otto Group, which claims to be the world’s second-largest online retailer after Amazon and the largest in Germany, is not listed in the Guide, which ranks North American retailers by online sales.

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