Since Zalando was founded in 2008 as an online retailer of footwear, the Berlin-based business has epxanded to include other areas of fashion and now operates in 15 different international markets.
Zalando came to the UK in 2011, and just last year it began collaborating with Topshop.
However, late 2015 saw the etailer branch out to advertising, launching its own in-house data-driven platform that aims to connect fashion and retail brands to consumers.
With company's clear ambitions to become more than just an etailer, the Retail Gazette caught up with Jérôme Cochet, Zalando's senior vice president of advertising and sales, to find out what they're doing to become a platform that connects people and fashion across markets, devices and categories.
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Tell us a bit about your background. How has your previous experience aided your current business?
I joined Zalando five years ago and hold the position of Senior Vice President Advertising & Sales. My background, combined with our longstanding in-house knowledge for data-driven advertising, were helpful in building up Zalando Media Solutions (ZMS). Besides, heading the media buying department for our 15 different markets helped develop a deep understanding for the differences and needs of our customers which is important for successful advertising, as well.
In the last months, Zalando has been transforming from fashion etailer towards a platform that connects all players in the fashion market.
One of our newly launched products is our data-driven advertising unit Zalando Media Solutions. We have been an active advertiser for the last eight years ourselves and built up strong relationships with publishers, a substantial net reach across 15 markets as well as deep knowledge about factual data and campaigning.
We use this experience to open up for partners and offer creative, data-driven campaign services on a strong consumer insights basis for both fashion and non-fashion brands.
ZMS combines premium audience targeting with creative storytelling and native ad formats that enable our partners to adress the right consumers at the right time, complete with tailored brand messages on Zalando inventory and on third party sites such as Facebook or Instagram.
Moving forward, we will further develop our service portfolio from a self-service interface for brands to leveraging our pure data business to the integration of new audiences such as influencers.
Who are your main competitors in the industry?
We do not comment on potential competitors. What makes ZMS competitive is the fact that we offer our brand partners a high-quality pure play fashion environment and we’ve been an advertiser ourselves ever since.
Our entire campaign development and execution has been happening in-house for eight years now. Furthermore, Zalando operates in 15 European markets.
With our knowledge of local preconditions in these markets and the expectations of local customers, we can help brands to enter those markets.
On top of that, we offer support in the creative campaign stage already, not only with data to find the right audience, but also with experience in campaign conceptualisation to excite the audience with tailored stories.
Who are you working with currently?
Around 80 brands have used ZMS so far for over 100 different campaigns already: Nike, Adidas but also Arcadia for Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Boxfresh and many others.
They all follow different marketing objectives, from brand building to creating brand awareness and driving engagement with the customers to driving commercial success.
What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking in etailing and ecommerce? What are the essentials?
For Zalando, a major success factor has always been a strong localisation.
European markets are very different from each other, so Zalando orientates on the local preconditions in a market and the expectations of our customers. The selection of the brands to marketing, payment, customer service and delivery methods at Zalando differ from market to market. For example, we offer over 20 different paying options and numerous different delivery options among the 15 markets we operate in.
What would you say is the biggest risk for your sector, given the current climate?
At present, there is a lot of speculation in the media as to what the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look like, and it’s important to remember it is just that: speculation.
Of course we will adapt our processes concerning the UK market in order to remain compliant – as soon as the negotiations between the UK and the EU have occured and a way forward has been determined.
We already have experiences with markets outside of the EU (such as Switzerland and Norway) and run business there successfully.