Conrad Electronic: Powering new customer interactions with APIs

About Conrad Electronic

Conrad is a European online electronics and technology retailer known for its large product selection of international brand names and Conrad brand made-in-Germany quality products. Conrad ships to businesses and consumers in more than 150 countries from its online ecommerce platform.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Germany

Conrad Electronic uses Google Cloud and the Apigee API management platform to transform a regional B2C omnichannel business into a European B2B ecommerce platform for products and services.

Google Cloud results

  • Reduces partner onboarding from weeks of development time to just hours
  • Manages over 110 APIs on Apigee developer portal to grow B2B ecosystem
  • Scales retail and wholesale business beyond local brick and mortar by using APIs to create a global ecommerce platform

Managing 3B API calls per month through the Apigee platform

Conrad Electronic has long been a trusted source in Europe for high-quality electronic products and components. The company was founded in 1923 in Berlin, but over the past 30 years has expanded its operations across Europe. In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, Conrad has developed an omnichannel strategy that offers its customers the possibility to buy via stores, online, catalog, phone, email, and fax.

Customers worldwide depend on the company for quality Conrad and brand-name merchandise and excellent service. Yet, even given its long history of success, the nearly 100-year-old, family-owned business knew it needed to evolve to compete in today’s globalized retail environment. For Conrad, this meant transforming itself from a regional network of brick-and-mortar stores into a global platform for B2B and B2C electronics sales.

Scaling from physical stores to global ecommerce with Apigee

“In today’s competitive globalized business landscape, we recognized that a midsized electronics company could only continue its history of success by transforming into a platform. Apigee allows us to do just that.”

Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital & Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

Conrad launched its first ecommerce platform 21 years ago. Today it serves customers in 150 countries with almost 4.5 million products on offer in Germany and over 700 products in all other countries. As technology has evolved, so has Conrad’s business, which now generates over half of its sales online through 16 individual localized websites. To keep pace with digital transformation and take advantage of the possibilities that technologies including cloud, IoT, and APIs could offer, the company hired its first Chief Digital and Disruption Officer in 2016.

Aleš Drábek came on board with the formidable challenge of transforming Conrad into a cloud-first company. With broad responsibility for IT, ecommerce, data, and innovation, Aleš expanded Conrad’s existing strategies and began the process of building a B2B platform by retooling the company’s systems to take advantage of microservices architecture. To accomplish this, APIs would play a fundamental role.

“In today’s competitive globalized business landscape, we recognized that a midsized electronics company could only continue its history of success by transforming into a platform,” Aleš says. “Apigee allows us to do just that.”

Based on an intensive market evaluation, the Conrad team in 2016 decided on the Apigee API Management Platform, and was delighted when Apigee was acquired by Google Cloud shortly thereafter. Aleš credits Apigee and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) with enabling his team to execute the cloud-first strategy Conrad had defined. Conrad’s ecommerce platform is now fully hosted on GCP and uses Google Open Source databases, IoT services, and machine learning technologies in addition to using Apigee to run its microservices architecture.

The ecommerce team at Conrad finds the platform’s speed to be one of the most important aspects of their successful Apigee implementation. Because they are using Apigee not only to expose APIs publicly, but also to connect various Conrad front ends and middleware, a lack of latency is critical. With online customers expecting lightning-fast experiences, all Conrad websites and ecommerce solutions need to perform quickly, without latency, errors, or downtime.

Transforming customer interactions with API-powered front ends

One key innovation in the Conrad strategy is using APIs to connect directly to customer-facing front ends. APIs managed in Apigee connect these dedicated front ends with an array of middleware and backend services inside Conrad. One front end, for example, serves key account B2B customers online with orders that are pushed directly to the ERP for execution. But the biggest innovation is how Conrad approached developing the front end for its in-store terminals.

Many retailers tend to create in-store terminals by essentially duplicating their existing web shops, but Aleš and his team took a different approach. Having recognized that most store employees weren’t happy with simply replicating the web store experience at their store terminals, Aleš set out to understand what kind of solution would serve the business better. A small team of developers were tasked with observing the sales process in stores firsthand; this led to an in-store sales interface that more closely mirrored Conrad’s actual selling process.

“APIs give people the freedom and independence to implement their ideas quickly and effectively. Apigee enables Conrad to harness the power of APIs to transform how we interact with customers and how we transfer data with our B2B customers.”

Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital & Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

Now, Conrad employees have an easy-to-use tool on their mobile devices that provides the product, service, and warranty information they need to support the sales process. Over 60 percent of all customers who visit its stores are now being serviced via this tool.

“APIs give people the freedom and independence to implement their ideas quickly and effectively,'' says Aleš. “Apigee enables Conrad to harness the power of APIs to transform how we interact with customers and how we transfer data with our B2B customers.”

Empowering experimentation with Apigee developer portal

Supporting such a complex matrix of B2C and B2B business in many countries requires a keen awareness of any factor that could slow development and maintenance of the company’s IT systems and platforms.

“Without Apigee to help tie everything together, our business would experience much slower development cycles and higher dependence on middleware and backend development,” explains Aleš. “This would translate into slower and more costly development of new features and services, and failure to maintain competitiveness.”

“Over the past two years of cloud-first business transformation, Conrad developers have learned to become more independent,” Aleš says. Without having to rely on other teams to tackle new projects, Aleš is free to explore the myriad of new technologies to further improve company operations.

"We can give access to our data to prospective vendors through our Apigee developer portal, putting the responsibility for proof of concept on them. Vendors can consume data and run tests on their own. By the time they come to pitch, we can easily see whether they’re delivering real benefits.”

Aleš Drábek, Chief Digital & Disruption Officer, Conrad Electronic

With new technology companies offering attractive tools for everything from marketing to ecommerce to price optimization, Apigee helps Conrad unlock the potential of new solutions. Previously, integrating with a new technology vendor that needed access to Conrad’s product catalog or ERP would require complex and expensive development projects. As a result, Conrad would be cautious when considering working with newer, smaller vendors if success wasn’t guaranteed. But now, with Conrad APIs easily available to vendors as well as B2B customers, the company can explore all kinds of new technology products and services.

"We can give access to our data to prospective vendors through our Apigee developer portal, putting the responsibility for proof of concept on them,” Aleš says. “Vendors can consume data and run tests on their own. By the time they come to pitch, we can easily see whether they’re delivering real benefits.”

About Conrad Electronic

Conrad is a European online electronics and technology retailer known for its large product selection of international brand names and Conrad brand made-in-Germany quality products. Conrad ships to businesses and consumers in more than 150 countries from its online ecommerce platform.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Germany