German online fashion and shoe retailer Zalando is going through a period of change as it aims to “deepen” relationships with customers and partners across the 25 markets in which it currently operates. That latest element of change involved the consolidation of its media business into Dentsu’s iProspect as a means of “simplifying” the setup, which previously involved individual agencies based in local markets.

According to its Q3 financial results, the business has a total of 50.2 million active customers with each placing an average of 5.2 orders.

“We will continue to carefully navigate through these turbulent times, pushing forward with measures to improve profitability as well as strategic initiatives that inspire and engage with our customers,” said Robert Gentz, co-CEO at Zalando, while revealing the above figures.

Since then, the business has begun to introduce a new operating model that will aim to deepen the understanding of local customers and audiences while creating a customer experience that drives repeat visits to the platform.

The marketing team itself has also undergone reinvention in the last two years since the arrival of former Heineken USA executive Ralph Rijks as its global vp of marketing. He explained that as a result, the new operating model has little impact on his own team.

One of the things that I try to do in terms of strategy is to keep it simple.

Ralph Rijks, global vp of marketing, Zalando

“We’ve been very based on markets first,” he said, which meant looking at local customers first to gain insights and understand the growth opportunities they offer before creating commercial plans around the next products and propositions that need marketing.

The marketing teams are based centrally out of the company headquarters in Berlin and are supported by local agencies with their communications campaign activations.

Consolidating the global media account

Prior to consolidating its media with iProspect as its global agency of record, the business worked with local agencies, including Dentsu, within Denmark, Spain, England, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia. The previous roster featured other network agencies operating within its 25 markets.

“One of the things that I try to do in terms of strategy is to keep it simple,” continued Rijks, who described the consolidation more as “a simplification” away from the busy agency roster.

“That made it extremely complicated to compare results or compare best practices or best cases. And also to then be able to react fast and then scale quickly across all your markets,” he added. “It creates efficiencies, right? It increases your speed and it also increases the likelihood of being successful.”

The agency’s first work with the fashion business will be on the spring campaign, which is due to run from mid-February; that work will continue to be activated at local levels and will deliver insight to drive growth. Although there was a media review, the company will not review its creative partnership roster, which has involved agencies—Anomaly Berlin, Kolle Rebbe, Convoy and Jung von Matt, for example—developing locally relevant campaigns.

Marketing plans for 2023

With the media review concluded and the spring campaign on the way, Rijks can focus on his plans for 2023. Those include “working very hard to establish one Zalando brand” and making its position and key messages “more pronounced.” He admits that it will take “a number of years” to gain full visibility and meet these goals.

With inflation rising around the world and economies in difficult places, promotions and discounts will be part of the marketing message this year in order to entice customers to visit the platform.

For Copenhagen Fashion Week, Zalando developed a “virtual greenhouse” experience.Zalando

He explained that the goal is for the platform to become a destination where people don’t just come to buy clothes, but come to immerse themselves in fashion and get inspired. The company won’t, however, go all in on Web3 initiatives at this time.

“I think the mistake is to think it’s all things to all people and I think that’s at the beginning,” he said of Web3’s sudden appeal to marketers who jumped on board “too quickly.”

While he is unconvinced, he has seen some “interesting applications” of the technology. In fact, last February the brand developed a virtual greenhouse experience dedicated to sustainable fashion during Copenhagen Fashion Week last January.

“That’s a Web3 application where people don’t have to travel to see sustainable fashion that is being presented. So we use it selectively where we feel the experience matches the added value that it can have. But we’re not going all out and betting the house on it just yet.”