„To do, what no one else is doing“
marken mehrwert AG – benefits for brand manufacturers, retailers and consumers
The idea is as simple as it is ambitious: creating new connections between commerce, manufacturers and consumers, to offer additional value for everyone. marken mehrwert AG has been based in the technology center MAFINEX in Mannheim since 2012. After their successful start-up the team is now working on expansion in Europe and further technological developments. So it’s about time we met up with members of the Executive Board, Hannah Knoth and Frank Schwarz.
Hannah, what it is exactly that you guys are doing?
What no one else is doing. We deal with highly sensitive data and are interconnected with commerce very closely. We act as an intermediary between manufacturers, retailers and consumers. And we make sure everyone has a benefit.
How do you ensure everyone has this benefit?
We assist international brand manufacturers in creating multichannel, cross-channel and omni-channel concepts in Europe. This means we achieve an integration of e-commerce, without excluding, damaging or losing any traditional trades. Furthermore we enable two-tier distribution systems by offering analyses and reports, and we ensure that consumers have simple benefits when shopping.
Well, that does sound quite complex …
Indeed. That is precisely why we advise our brand partners on how to implement such systems. We know the issues involved and are well versed in the field. This allows us to help with the successful implementation of these programs. There aren’t many companies that are able to offer such a service, and there are none offering a comparable product range.
Which problems are you aiming to solve?
We aim to establish a program that ensures a benefit for all parties involved. To make this work you not only need industry-specific knowledge and IT skills, but also insights regarding the legal aspects of the issues in question. This concerns things such as data privacy protection and competition law.
So you set up a program or platform that allows manufacturers, retailers and consumers to work with simultaneously?
Exactly. We develop the programs together with the brand manufacturers and integrate the other parties in the next phase. Consumers for example can participate in campaigns to achieve certain benefits. This isn’t that easy to explain as many different sources of information are brought together to make it work.
You offer a package which includes consultancy services and software solutions?
Yes. We offer the consultancy and the platform. We have a platform for the consumers and one for commerce. Check us out at www.mmw.ag to learn more.
So as a single person I could use your platform?
Sure. As much as you want to. We handle a multitude of campaigns simultaneously. Though as a brand you wont recognize us immediately. As we deal with highly sensitiv data as a neutral intermediary we wish to remain in the background.
So let’s say I’m shopping for a 4K TV and am offered a discount … this could be your doing?
For example. Yes. In case of many products or sectors we only handle certain campaigns. Primarily we aren’t a marketing agency. Though we enjoy collaborating with them. We are not interested in designing web pages, but rather in handling the data behind the sites. In addition we set up everything regarding fulfillment. This includes everything surrounding customer service, logistics and so forth. We wish to ensure that consumers receive their benefits as fast as possible. In case of a cash back bonus we will manage the entire payment transaction and the accounting for everyone involved.
Do you also manage the legal aspects of transactions?
Taking into account the legal and regulatory framework and the compliance requirements is a big part of our business model. To do this we work closely with the legal departments of our partners as well as with many specialized law firms. We see this as our duty when dealing with such sensitive data.
And in the end the bill goes to the manufacturer that gets the benefit of selling more product?
Yes and no. Of course we are mostly commissioned by the brand manufacturers, and in the end they will pay the bill. But we aren’t just helping them sell more product. The issue of a multichannel business perspective is key to our clients. This may seem less interesting to a regular citizen, but creating a link between stationary businesses and e-commerce is one of our central issues. We implement two-tier distribution systems that allow our clients to exactly see the flows of goods. And again taking into account all the legal aspects is key here as well.
So a database with analysis tools?
Yes. We receive large amounts of data and can gain many insights from processing them. Though unlike many other platforms we don’t sell data. We only use the data in agreement with those directly involved, the consumers. As a business we are focused on three main issues: to enable multichannel commerce, to create benefits for consumers, as well as reports and analyses – these we offer for both distribution and all other aspects of business.
How big is your team?
All in all we are about 100 people. In Mannheim, in Mafinex we are around 70. In Berlin we have another office for our clients in the area. We also employ temporary staff and freelance IT specialists. This allows us to use highly qualified and trained personnel optimally for each job. Our staff is very diverse and is made up of computer scientists, engineers, management graduates and lawyers, as well as staff from other, non-academic fields. We also currently have 10 trainees in the fields of administrative assistant, application development and systems integration.
Your clients are international. Does being a German company that must adhere to German data protection legislation give you an competitive edge, or is it a problem?
The rules are very strict, which does make it a real challenge. At the same time our partners know that as a German firm everything is kept in country under strict regulations. This makes things safe and we are considered model pupils. So, yes, it gives us a competitive edge!
You wish to continue to grow. In Mannheim?
The time we have in Mafinex is limited and we have to pursue further possibilities, so we will have to see if we can stay in Mannheim? This is one of our big issues at the moment. Other big issues include finding qualified staff, expanding our operation within Europe and further developing our tech.
How relevant is Mannheim as a base for your business?
Mafinex is great. We could grow here and Mannheim is a very interesting city for us, as many of our people live here in the region. But as I said, we’ll have to see if „Mannheim“ makes us an attractive offer.
What’s lacking at the moment?
We have discovered time and again that young people today have much more traditional values as one might expect. The city may be building nice and luxurious penthouses, but our staff is often more interested in founding a family and buying a little house in the green. This is not easy to do in Mannheim. At the same time we face a challenge when sourcing new staff as a medium-sized IT company. We have to convince potential employees to choose us over the big players. Finding good people is a very tough task.
Hannah, you are part of the Executive Board but are not part of the company founders?
True. Though I have been here from the beginning. I studied economic law in Heidelberg and started as a working student for MMW. This is what I love about start-ups, you’ve got the chance to take on responsibility and grow together with the business. We always work as a team here, have a great meeting culture, and all of our employees are brought into relevant business decisions.
Interview: Paul Heesch
Photos: Ricardo Wiesinger