Q&A: Julian Krenge, Founder and CTO , parcelLab
Julian is a founder and CTO of parcelLab. He built our product from the ground up, and works hard to make it better every day. When he’s not taking care of our customers, you can find him riding his bike around Munich, walking his dog, or enjoying a hot espresso.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I started working in a trucking company, funnily enough. It started off being manual labor, but soon shifted to supporting with IT, setting up, servicing, using barcode scanners etc. I should mention that I studied computer science and did an MBA. When you study computer science, it quickly turns out you can make good money through programming contracts. So, together with a few friends at university, I started taking on more and more jobs.
At some point we realized that if you want to make money with software, it’s better to build a product than work for someone else’s. So, we started trying out products: an ERP for small businesses, a dating site based on local parties, a trade fair organization system, complete with an iPad app, etc.
But none of that stuck. So, I started doing my PhD in mechanical engineering. We did consultancy projects on the side to supplement our lifestyle while studying. Namely, I did three large projects: one with Lufthansa, another with RWE which is Germany’s largest energy company, and Allianz, which is I believe the world’s largest insurance company.
A question I get asked a lot is: what qualities do you need to become an entrepreneur? But I don’t think this is the right way around. Personally, I believe that people become entrepreneurs because they don’t have the characteristics to work in a corporate environment. Not that they have some special quality that predisposes them to be entrepreneurial. That’s what happened to me anyway. I didn’t like any of the things I was working on, and I figured I needed to try something for myself. These days I am the CTO at parcelLab, so essentially, it is my job to make our product better every day.
What does your company do? / What is your USP?
Like some other businesses in the market, we noticed that retailers lose contact with their customers after checkout. More often than not, a carrier will take over communication. It’s problematic because the retailer can’t control the quality or quantity of contact received. Plus, in the event of a delay or an issue, the customer will call the retailer to ask ‘Hey, what’s going on? Where is my parcel?’ And here’s the thing: they don’t know. They can’t track the parcel either.
Where our solution is different from other products on the market is we’ve created an Operations Experience Management platform, which streamlines every aspect of the end-to-end customer journey. Where others fix one element, like post-purchase comms, or returns, our solution can do it all. And crucially, our solution is completely white label. So we enable brands to design and deliver a communications workflow around their own customers, in a familiar look and feel, in their own ecosystem. This doubles as a great opportunity for brands, who enjoy fresh opportunities to upsell, cross-sell and drive already engaged traffic back to their site. It’s a win-win.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
We think big. That’s what’s different. We don’t want to simply fix a problem. We’re inventing a category we believe will become a foundation of every brand’s strategy. Operations Experience Management won’t just be a buzzword – we want to completely reinvent the e-commerce space. We want to empower brands to deliver the best e-commerce experience possible, without having to worry about data. For customers, it means that they receive a truly enjoyable experience. They know what’s going on, they’re put at ease. And brands can rest assured that they’re staying one step ahead of the market.
What advantage does it add?
The 500+ brands we work with report three benefits consistently. Firstly, we help reduce inquiries in customer service by proactively pushing out relevant information before customers get the chance to ask. So, for example, Granit saw a 15% drop in inquiry emails and a 20% decrease in WISMO calls. Secondly, we bring complete transparency into any operational processes and how orders are fulfilled. This means brands are able to improve the efficiency of the end-to-end e-commerce journey. Thirdly we generate new, additional customer touch points that can be converted into new revenue. For example, Fashionette now drives 75% of customers back to their site from their post-checkout emails. Lidl saw a 12% increase in basket size and 11teamsports increased revenue by 19%. But the versatility of our platform means that we can support with a wide range of business goals. So, we pinpointed the best time to request customer feedback for Hessnatur, resulting in a 365% increase. Whatever your business goals, we can support it.
How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?
The resources required from the brands we integrate with are minimal. That being said, each business is different so every onboarding will vary. Implementing parcelLab is so simple that it can take as little as 2 weeks. We go live with roughly 2-5 new enterprise businesses a month, and already work with hundreds of B2C and B2B brands and retailers. In a nutshell, the process works like this: we set up a data transfer, design bespoke shipping communication, create a branded Track and Trace page hosted in the brand’s ecosystem – and then finally we test it before we go live.
We measure success depending on what the brand’s core motivation is to be working with us. If it’s to have more engagement with their customers, we monitor how many touch points we have added to their average journey. If they want to reduce WISMO, we track the reduction in their inbound inquiries. If the brand is keen to improve their overall customer experience, we look for things like email engagement, and click-throughs – as well as customer reviews and retention. Monitoring the average customer spend is also a great way to see progress in customer experience. If they’re happy, they’ll buy more, more often.
How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?
I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all ‘best practice’ when it comes to Operations Experience Management. Instead, we support each brand create their own best version of e-commerce experience. That’s why you’ll see such different communication workflows from our customers. Because every brand is different, every style and tone, every color scheme – it’s all different, so it’d be redundant to try and fit them all into the same box.
In terms of competitive advantage, I think it circles back to what we’ve already said about being cutting edge and staying ahead of the market. Let’s face it, e-commerce is booming and it’s no longer just about getting prospects to your site, nor is it winning purchases. Brands need to create recognizable, impactful experiences that nurture loyal customers. Creating engaged, communities of people who see your brand as easy and enjoyable to buy from. And I have already touched on more specific benefits of this – driving traffic back to your site, increasing lifetime value, growing basket site, increasing customer engagement. All of these smaller benefits add up to a highly engaged customer base. And that is a huge competitive advantage.
Are there other companies you partner with?
Yes. Of course, we partner with carriers across the world. But we are also proud to be integrated with some of the most reputable systems across the retail space, including SAP, Zendesk, Salesforce, Oracle and Trustpilot to name a few.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021 / What challenges are retailers facing right now to prepare better?
I think the e-commerce boom that has resulted from the pandemic has really made everyone question what they’re doing. Brands have had to adapt, arguably unlike ever before. But with that comes an opportunity now to think: ‘huh, so not everything we thought was inevitable actually is’. Things aren’t as static as they seem, we can do things differently. It can be a very freeing mindset – the idea that you can try anything. Nothing is off the table. But at the same time, this is the challenge. How will brands realize this potential? How can they stay competitive? And that’s where we come in.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
Brands have to adapt and understand how they can shape customer experience in a digital market. Not as a quick fix during COVID, but for good. And this is a process, and it will evolve but ultimately, our solution can help brands work their way through it. And the great news is, we do the data bit. We’ve sorted carrier integrations. So, brands are free to dream up the best possible version of their e-commerce journey, and we make it happen.
Customer expectations will evolve and grow, trends will come and go – and brands can adapt their Operations Experience to cater to this. But something that is bound to stick is this: customers expect transparency. In a social media age, we are used to thinking up a question and having the answer in the palm of our hand the next minute. That puts big pressure on brands. But we can support them. And with the rise of digital subscriptions, personalized products, chatbots, voice interactions – we help you stay ahead of the curve.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
Following our recent Series C funding round, our team has just received an $112 million investment into our Operations Experience Management platform. And with this investment, we’re ready to grow. We’re ready to scale up our business into new markets and redefine e-commerce everywhere with the power of Operations Experience Management. As CTO, personally I can’t wait to expand the capabilities of our offering. We are moving into new domains that will allow us to work closer to our customers. I’m excited to develop new functionalities that our existing customers have been asking for. We’re already moving full steam ahead on these projects but with this investment, we can pick up the pace. Of course, we are looking forward to disrupting new industries and markets through Operations Experience.
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