Brno success stories: Notino – the largest Czech e-shop in Europe. For beauty.

Vlastimil Veselý

Notino is the largest Czech e-shop when counting the figures in all European countries. The company has a turnover over one billion dollars and serves over 24 million individual customers from 27 countries. About 14% share of its revenues comes from the Czech market.

I spoke with Notino CEO, Zbyněk Kocián, about the ups and downs of doing business from Brno and the key factors of their success. Theirs is the 18th in a series of interviews I am conducting with the personalities behind notable Brno companies that operate internationally. 

The company was founded by Michal Zámec who is still a Member of the Supervisory Board. In 2004 he saw a gap in the market and established one of the first Czech e-shops focused on perfumes. This is the segment where one third of customers know exactly what to buy.

The Czechs were early adopters in the whole area of internet commerce. Unlike western competitors the company did not have to look after the legacy of brick & mortar stores and old IT systems. The digital business could be built from scratch with up-to-date technologies.

He quickly understood that foreign customers on the internet are just a click away and started to sell also to Slovakia and other neighbouring countries. Soon became one of the fastest growing businesses in Central and Eastern Europe and in 2017 – due to a broader scope of goods – it resulted in rebranding to Notino and expanding to more markets.

New Brand and CEO

Zbyněk joined Notino in 2015. Now, Notino is selling not only perfumes. About one half of the range of goods consists of cosmetics, beauty products for hair and skin, non-prescription drugs and other health products like nutritional supplements. The website serves as a one stop shop in 19 languages.

Today Notino has become one of the largest e-shops with perfumes and cosmetics in Europe and customers can choose from 100,000 unique products from 2,500 global and smaller local brands. Last year the e-shop processed 102 million purchased products. That is possible thanks to 2,000 employees with about 900 of them based in Brno. 

One may think of further geographical expansion. However according to Zbyněk, this is not the priority. The current focus is on six European countries where its market share is greater than 30%. More than one half of its turnover comes from Western Europe. Asia & Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe and both Americas have similar shares.

Notino is not in the digital world only. Since 2010 it has been expanding into a chain of brick and mortar stores too. 26 shops in eight countries includes six in the Czech Republic, two of them in Brno.

Business and Technology Innovator

Zbyněk likes saying Notino changes the standards of buying for beauty. He wants to put stress on simplifying the customer journey through their e-shop. One of the technology innovations is a virtual mirror (try on) showing how the product (for example colour of crème or lipstick) looks like on the customer. Another pioneering step is selling little samples for affordable prices for those who are not sure about the right product.

The company’s ambition is to become a technology company. Its information system developed in house is not dependant on external suppliers and handles one hundred millions visits a year. Advanced technologies have been deployed also within the management of logistics. The Notino distribution centre is one of the most modern in the country and is capable of dispatching up to 180,000 packages a day.

The European capital for Notino is Brno

“Managing the European company from Brno is certainly not a handicap,” says Zbyněk. He commutes from Ostrava twice a week and that leads him to the question of transport, of course. Having the office so close to Vienna, Prague and Bratislava is advantageous, on the other hand more flight connections from Brno would help.

Another strength and potential of the city is a large pool of technology and language talents. Zbyněk wants to build on this and have deeper cooperation with universities through a series of lectures. The human resources department is looking for new people beyond the borders of Brno and the Czech Republic. “More foreigners and English language in the company is a must,” is Zbyněk’s closing remarks.

Zbynek Kocian joined Notino as CFO in 2015. With his eye for numbers, finance, and business, he helped build the commercial team and gradually worked his way up to CEO of Notino. Today, under his hands, this Czech beauty powerhouse is increasing its turnover by 30 % every year.  

Turnover (in mil CZK)94111376118108
Employees worldwide122515671678
Employees in Brno91712491323