eTail Germany 2021

09 - 11 March, 2021

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Here’s how Zalando Drastically Transformed its Marketing Strategy


When Zalando slashed 250 jobs from its marketing department earlier this year, the retail world was dumbstruck. Blogs and articles had been comforting us with the reassurance that it would be years before AI took over, and telling us to embrace enhancements from intelligent computing. Yet here was a cataclysmic mass redundancy that begged to differ. The third largest eCommerce business in Germany had traded in 250 employees for algorithms.

In a recent press release regarding the shocking move, Zalando explained, “Apart from this decision, which surely hasn’t been an easy one, the realignment of our marketing teams will help us set the tone for the modern fashion industry and offer even smarter, more personalised and integrated solutions to our customer.”

As a pure-player, Zalando is sitting on a mountain of readily available data. The tactics of this reorganisation centre around using that data to provide a highly personalised marketing campaign. At Zalando, personalisation is king. The barebones crew of data wizards have stepped in to forge a system where the data does the work.

Here are four approaches Zalando are taking towards marketing…

#1 Localised Marketing

The increasing amount of searches containing phrases like ‘near me’ have seen Google’s cryptic algorithm favouring sites which accommodate hyperlocal SEO. These are the websites you see highlighted on maps, and they’re also ranked higher in searches overall. Zalando has been focusing on localising their digital marketing to meet their shopper’s needs wherever they may be.

#2 Personalised Marketing

The invention of new technologies that handle time-consuming routine operations has allowed retailers the time to focus on forging personal connections with their customers—and Zalando has become good at it. Instead of relying on gimmicky added extras, retailers can now differentiate themselves in a meaningful way. The days of optimistically blanket bombing a database with marketing emails are over: now we can curate a sophisticated view of a customer to find out what they want, and give it to them.

The online shop has been personalised with A-B tested customer features offer each of Zalando’s 23 million customers a different experiences. Now they’re looking to transfer this approach into their marketing as well.

#3 High Volume, Engaging Content

Social proof is one of the most powerful marketing tools thriving in the digital revolution. Thanks to the internet, shoppers can share reviews more easily than ever before. The cultural phenomenon of social media influencers is an excellent example of the overlap between personal and commercial which has been brought about by this digital, cultural shift.

Content which customers genuinely care about creates an opportunity for discussion. Opinion leaders with authentic and relevant stories can connect with the audience on a much deeper level than most faceless marketing messages. However, as Zalando is well aware, trends move fast, and topical content needs to be able to keep up. Zalando has it’s finger on the pulse when it comes to social media influence- in fact it even owns a paid social influencer service, Collabary, which offers a platform to brands who want to interact with their many social media connections.

#4 Inspirational, Direct Customer Experience

About 10% of brands Zalando sells are developed in-house, for the rest it’s a melting pot of anything from smaller urban brands to huge designer labels. Bread & Butter is Zalando’s pop-up festival of style and culture which takes place every year in Berlin. It brings this melting pot concept to life, allowing customers interact with Zalando’s partner brands, again, on a much more personal level.

Pop-Up Zalon

This last point of direct customer experience can be a difficult thing for pure-players to perfect- but it’s a very powerful tool when used correctly. Popup stores have been storming the high-street as pure players recognise the opportunity to integrate online and in-store in a way never before done.

Traditional bricks and mortar stores are tied to property, but the transient nature of pop-ups can be a compelling way to create hype. On top of this, the customer’s preconception of pure players as intertwined with technology allows data to be integrated much more easily and seamlessly into the in-store experience.

An example of this is the rise of Zalando’s pop-up stores – which have been popping up in Berlin, Amsterdam, Milan and Vienna. Online, the Zalon service curates a selection of clothes for people based on previous choices, current trends, and a few questions from a click through survey. At the pop-up store, customers can trial this highly personalised service in reality. If their personal stylist finds something they like, they can order it to be shipped, waiting for them at home from one the tablets in-store.

This integration of online and pace to face personalisation is the ultimate marriage of personalisation from data, and from a genuine connection with a real person. While Zalando have made some drastic and arguably questionable moves in their efforts for a data-driven strategy, older retailers certainly have a lot to learn from this fresh perspective.

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