Zalando Pitch Win Ecommerce

After wowing Zalando, iProspect will meld brand and performance for an e-commerce edge


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

January 16, 2023 | 7 min read

The Dentsu-owned media agency posted a big win last week when it was announced as the global agency of record for fashion giant Zalando. We find out how it plans to tackle this unique account as the e-commerce boom intensifies.


After wowing Zalando, iProspect explains how it’ll sharpen its e-commerce edge / Zalando

Fresh from taking on new work for BMW, iProspect was buoyed by another success when it won over fashion brand Zalando, scoring its media account across 25 markets.

The German fashion platform, which was founded in Berlin in 2008, boasts some 50 million active users who have each placed an average of 5.2 orders.

The brand’s marketing and media buying operations have been largely in-house from Berlin with support from numerous agencies in each market. As more and more markets were added on to these demands, the overall picture grew complex, something the brand has now rallied against in its latest pitch, citing the fact that iProspect can offer the full suite to meet its needs as a positive.

Speaking to The Drum, Dan Friel, global client president and head of iProspect global, said: “We understood the dynamics of the brand and performance of its business better than anyone else. We knew it needed an agency that brings brand smarts and can handle the performance point of view.”

Dentsu was an incumbent in seven markets, but Friel credited the global relationship the agency had built already as helping nudge the win over the line. He believes the agency was already speaking the same language as the start-up and understood the fashion group’s need for speed. “We brought a freshness and an energy that I don’t think anyone else did.”

The key lies with Gen Z

Edging the competitive brief was the digital-first media agency’s insights and strategy. A cornerstone of the relationship was iProspect’s understanding of the connection between Gen Z and fashion across all markets. The differences may be subtle, but they can make or break a sale across the “tribes”.

Friel adds: “Our understanding of that and the tools and the research capabilities that we have in the markets were new, as was the way we talked about audiences. Zalando has not heard before and that makes the difference.”

Amanda Morrisey, global brand and client president, iProspect, added: “The maturity of the Zalando brand in each of those markets is very different. When you looked at the individual markets and smashing the brief, we clearly shone.

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“When you holistically look at across all markets, we’d be sharing best practices, scaling the business and innovating, consistently across all the markets. The ability to answer the market-by-market issues but stitch together the markets will really help Zalando on its journey over the next few years.”

For the agency, the team will have to consider the Gen-Z shopping journey in more depth, and in a less linear fashion than media agencies have been guilty of. This approach is more tailored towards the brand-building campaigning the agency will bring to the table.

Friel added: “It’s that thinking in how we bring their brand and performance piece together and really how Gen Z was interacting with fashion... [and how they were building that relationship] with their brand, which is obviously agile.”

You must understand your markets

While many clients will as a reflex demand agility from those pitching, timing is everything in fashion and for Friel that means it is important to focus on seasonality in each market – its way of ensuring its message and products being pushed are relevant. The agency will study which platforms will work hardest for the brand in each market. The content will differ too. He offers some quick examples from Friel, no doubt there are dozens of such observations.

The Swedish market demands black clothes. The Stockholm fashionistas want every shade, silhouette and shape – it’s the Stockholm look. Meanwhile, France, he says, is “all about rules”. “The shift between the different seasons is incredibly regulated. From spring to summer, to autumn and winter, there are windows that you need to make that shift and if you’re late, it’s Paris, you’ll be out of fashion and you’ll be looked down upon.”

Friel expresses how an outdated product ad can actually tank a brand in the eyes of hardcore fans. This is the agility Zalando was seeking. “Understanding the interplay in the markets is the thing that makes a difference and is then reflected on the platforms.”

There’s a chicken-and-egg element to much of this work. Does the media agency help create the demand? Or does it quickly meet the demand? Can a good media plan really change how the trendiest people in a city dress? In a few years’ time, iProspect will know either way.

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