March 10, 2011, 11:24 AM

There’s a lot of Otto in European e-commerce

The German company owns all or part of more than 100 European web retailers.

Lead Photo

Already a bastion of e-commerce in its home base of Germany and surrounding countries, Otto Group continues to forge ahead in new ways to reach and engage consumers through the Internet.

“Looking back on its history, it is clear that Otto owes its success to an ability to anticipate and take advantage of future trends,” the company says. “Thus, Otto was quick to perceive the opportunities of e-commerce and the growth potential of Internet users as a target group.”

Indeed, today Otto owns all or a part of more than 100 European e-commerce properties, with e-commerce sales representing about 40% of its total multichannel retail sales, the company says. Going forward, the Internet will continue to be the key driver of sales, it says. Otto reported 2010 web sales of 3.84 billion euros (US$5.31 billion ) a 20% increase from 3.20 billion euros (US$4.42 billion) in 2009, and the company is ranked second behind only Inc. in Internet Retailer’s new Top 300 Europe research guide.

And Otto isn’t just waiting around to see that growth continue.

In the past year, it has taken steps to move ahead in mobile commerce, including relaunching a mobile site and introducing several apps.

The relaunched mobile site, at, was optimized for a touchscreen interface and can be accessed easily through a new mobile app in a smartphone browser, the retailer says. The mobile site and apps are also designed to let shoppers quickly send content about viewed items to friends via social media.

The retailer, which got its start selling through catalogs, is also providing new ways to shop its traditional product catalogs on tablet computers. Its “Otto catalogues” iPad app enables consumers to access the product content of six of Otto’s main merchandise suppliers. In addition, Otto launched last year the “Home Affaire Catalogue,” an iPad app that lets shoppers browse products and then link to an e-commerce site to make a purchase.

“As a pioneer in the area of mobile shopping, we are incorporating new mobile devices to offer our customers an attractive shopping experience on all retail channels,” says Thomas Schieders, new media director for Otto.

And Otto continues to look ahead.

The new Otto catalogues iPad app, for example, was developed to be compatible with the emerging web programming language HTML5 to give it a base for operating on new versions of tablet computers.

Otto is also working with augmented reality technology to provide new shopping experiences that tie web sites with traditional print catalogs. At its web site, shoppers can hold up copies of an Otto printed catalog to a web camera to make the catalog interact with the web site. When select pages of the print catalog are held up to the camera, the computer instantly shows a web page featuring the same product display on the catalog page. Tilting the catalog page in front the camera can cause the outfit to change on the model featured on the related web page, and rotating the catalog in front the camera can make the model on the web page turn around.

And if that’s not enough, Otto has more—as yet unidentified— innovation to come, the company says.

To order a copy of the Top 300 Europe, click here.

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