Veepee is an international e-commerce company with an interesting business model. But, since it's now valued at over $ 4 billion, we can learn a lot from its Managin Director, Patricia Lemattre Stoeckel, and the brand about how to grow and evolve in a challenging business environment.
According to Patricia, Veepee is the leading European digital outlet company. The company uses many different digital platforms such as mobile apps, websites, and social media to reach a wide customer base.
Veepee is interesting because it works directly with brands and product manufacturers to help them sell their products quickly through its digital outlets. From the start, Veepee held several flash sale events in partnership with leading brands, which helped it give its customers high-quality, trusted products at heavily discounted prices.
But despite selling mostly to consumers, Veepee is primarily a B2B brand. It gives businesses a powerful, highly innovative and creative digital platform through which they can accelerate slow-moving products and clear leftover inventory. This win-win business model works so well that it's since been replicated globally.
To be clear, Veepee doesn't sell substandard, faulty, or damaged products. The brand's business model revolves around beauty products, sports, fashion, travel, and lifestyle categories. Its business model was born out of a strong commitment to the environment and social issues such as recycling, which is known as the circular economy.
In this model, Veepee works with brands to help sell products that have been sitting in warehouses and would otherwise become waste. Other focus areas are reuse, recycling, and repair.
For example, electronic gadgets that only need minor repairs or upgrades shouldn't be thrown away. Manufacturers can refurbish those products and sell them at discounted prices. Veepee has a programme that allows members to send back products they're bought through the platform, which get sent back to the manufacturer to get a new lease on life.
These recycling efforts are particularly effective with lifestyle products like fast fashion, where clothes have become a big waste problem due to rapidly changing fashion choices.
The hospitality industry could learn a lot from this business model given its well-known waste problem. We're in dire need of such innovation that helps the environment while creating a win-win situation for businesses and consumers in the industry.
Patricia says that Veepee was voted the first French unicorn, which means a private company that reaches a valuation of over $1 billion. The word "unicorn" was chosen to represent the almost mythical status such a company achieves, given how difficult it is to grow to that level without being publicly listed on a stock exchange.
To reach unicorn status, a company must also have an innovative and fast-growing business model. Veepee acquired this status in 2007, which means it had incredible growth since it was founded just six years before in 2001.
It's not just Veepee, though, that has managed impressive growth. France has a vibrant startup economy and has about 25 unicorns at the time of writing. There's a highly competitive innovation environment, as shown by the cut-throat competition in the French Tech Next40 program listing.
Next40 is a government program that selects the 40 most promising startup businesses every year and supports them through their next phase of growth to help them become world-class leaders in technology. This alone shows how much potential there is in using technology to disrupt current business models in France, Switzerland, and the rest of the world.
Patricia says that, to date, Veepee is valued at over $4 billion, has over 5,000 employees in 10 countries, works directly with over 7,000 businesses and serves about 5 million unique visitors daily.
Patricia says that to achieve its level of success, Veepee places a primary focus on culture, people, agility and technology. She quotes Peter Drucker, who said that "culture eats technology for breakfast."
Peter meant that no matter how good and well-designed a brand's strategic plan is, it will fail unless the team shares the right culture. The success of a brand rests directly on its people, and a bad culture will kill any progress made through good strategy.
To this end, Veepee has strong people values. It seeks to create happiness, challenge its growth constantly, leverage teamwork and is very passionate about getting results.
Patricia says that Veepee works hard to ensure its people have a strong work-life balance and enjoy a high quality of life. It actively helps employees disconnect from work when they're not working and also organizes "feel-good" events to help them destress and have fun.
This focus on people is vital in industries like hospitality that rely heavily on human capital. Working in hospitality can be highly stressful, especially since people in the trenches who work the hardest often feel that it isn't very rewarding. An approach like this could help boost morale, productivity, and revenue.
Patricia also says that Veepee actively encourages diversity, having 60% women on the staff as well as in leadership.
The other pillar of Veepee's growth is technology and agility. Patricia says the company has over 600 IT people who power its innovation and helps it stay a step ahead of the competition.
Veepee's people-centric values extend to the customer. Despite being a French company, Patricia says that Veepee's operations in Switzerland are conducted entirely in-country, including customer care.
This allows the brand to get close to its customers in the area, in terms of language and culture. For example, it offers customer care in local languages. This proximity also allows quick service and a quick response time to customer needs.
Veepee has also been working on creating a more uniform brand across the countries it operates in. The company has acquired many smaller brands in 10 countries, but it's now bringing them together under the umbrella brand Veepee Europe. This strategy helps the company provide a consistent quality of service to all its customers.
Patricia is a happy mother of two teenagers, and she says that they're part of her inspiration because she gets to see first-hand how the world is changing and becoming more connected. She has seen the gap between the old and young generations and how consumer habits are changing with the younger generations.
This background is important as it powers her passion and provides a unique insight into the technology-driven world. The changes she has highlighted are not limited to the e-commerce or technology industry, as we have also seen how millennials and Gen-Zs have disrupted the hospitality industry in recruiting and marketing.
It's important for hospitality professionals to keep up with such changes. EHL provides the knowledge and skills needed to adapt and grow so that brands can remain relevant even in highly disruptive changes.
Patricia also notes how digitalisation has affected the current business environment. To her, digitalisation means agility, velocity, technology, data, proximity, and people. She says it's important to understand that in the digital world, people are the key asset and are vital for companies that want to explore new growth opportunities offered by a fast-changing world.
Brands need to adopt an attitude of willingness to test new things, learn, and change their approach. This is what agility is about, being able to change with the world through getting constant feedback and being willing to adapt.