Zalando Unlocks Fashion Boutique Space on Website, App

LONDON — With the future of many multibrand e-commerce platforms in flux, Zalando is stepping forward with a new proposition, a luxury, boutique-style space for designer brands on its website and app.

The German e-commerce giant said the space is aimed at customers hungry for designer fashion as well as “newcomers eager to delve into this world.”

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In addition, Zalando said the area will give its brand partners a chance to “narrate their stories,” and unveil collections, campaigns, and collaborations in an “elevated, curated” space.

“We can see that customers are increasingly looking for inspiration, personalization and engaging, new experiences. They are also continuously more interested in designer brands on Zalando, with luxury brand searches on Zalando steadily growing,” said Lena-Sophie Roeper, director of designer and luxury at Zalando.

“For us, it presents an opportunity to become the inspirational destination for everyone from loyal customers regularly shopping for contemporary and luxury items to first-time purchasers,” she added.

Zalando Designer offers a variety of European and international brands including Lardini, Aspesi, Bally, Helmut Lang, Proenza Schouler White Label, Victoria Beckham, Missoni, Rabanne, Vivienne Westwood, 032c, GCDS, Peter Do, Ahluwalia, Ralph Lauren and Emporio Armani.

To mark the launch, Zalando has sealed a yearlong partnership with the British-Japanese musician and actor Rina Sawayama as its ambassador for the designer and luxury fashion offering in 2024.

Zalando has released a creative campaign with Sawayama, and said she “will be tapping into key moments in the fashion calendar throughout the year.” The fashion area of the site features Sawayama’s top picks from the season, in addition to the fashion video and shoot.

The launch of the area and Sawayama’s appointment both point to a focus on “superior customer experience and inspiration,” Zalando said. Last year, the company introduced Stories on Zalando, an immersive shopping experience created in collaboration with Highsnobiety, which it purchased in 2022.

The Stories element features fashion and culture trends, personalities and exclusive collaborations, and aims to spotlight designer brands such as GmbH, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, and exclusive collaborations, such as MM6 x Chen Peng.

Some of the Stories are fashion features similar to what a magazine or weekend newspaper supplement would offer with headlines such as “Meet the new wave of emerging talents,” “Level up your layers,” and “Faced with a blue Monday? No fear, here’s how to tackle it.”

Zalando has also applied its new feature, an AI-powered fashion assistant, to help narrow down choices — and avoid the endless scrolling trap that e-commerce customers can fall into. The AI assistant also offers styling tips.

The experience, imagery and editorial are virtually indistinguishable from the high-end fashion sites.

It’s a bold move to launch such a proposition in the midst of a slowdown in luxury demand and the virtual disappearance of the aspirational customer, but Zalando remains undaunted.

“We are in a unique position to capture the market opportunity, as we do not only focus on the limited group of top designer customers. With more than 50 million customers across 25 markets, we serve a much wider audience — from a customer who delves into designer goods for the first time to a customer who regularly invests in designer products,” said Roeper in an interview with WWD.

“On top of that, existing Zalando customers grow into designer customers organically due to our cross-category shopping experience. Thanks to the storytelling experience offered by Stories on Zalando, which is embedded throughout the customer journey across our website and app, we encourage our customers to discover designer fashion when they’re looking for inspiration,” she added.

Rina Sawayama for Zalando.
Rina Sawayama for Zalando.

The updated experience features serve the brands, as well as the customer, Roeper added.

“Brand ‘homes’ give brands the opportunity to narrate their story with the help of a dynamic library of design elements. We know that it’s especially important for designer brands to be in full control of their narrative and curate the stories they wish to tell around their brand, collections and campaigns. The new Designer experience gives them a toolbox for truly elevated storytelling,” she said.

The launch of the specialty area comes at a pivotal moment for the first-mover designer and luxury multibrand retailers that are changing shape — and ownership.

As reported, Coupang bought Farfetch out of administration late last year, and it remains unclear what plans it has for the once-behemoth fashion platform and back-office service provider.

As a result of the Coupang deal, Richemont canceled its plans to sell Yoox Net-a-porter to Farfetch and Alabbar. The collapse of the deal put an end to Richemont chairman Johann Rupert’s dream of creating a “neutral” ecommerce platform with shared ownership that would have been open to all brands.

Richemont still intends to sell a majority stake in YNAP, and plans to do so within the next 12 months. The luxury giant said it has already received unsolicited interest from potential buyers.

The future of the luxury retailer Browns, which is owned by Farfetch, is also unclear. Coupang has yet to confirm its plans for the London boutique, which Farfetch purchased in 2015 and used as a laboratory to test its “store of the future” digital technology.

Also in December, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group purchased Matches at a knockdown price from Apax Partners in what has become a difficult climate for luxury e-commerce retailers.

Zalando’s new space arrives roughly 18 months after Amazon Luxury Stores landed in Europe. The German giant will most certainly go head-to-head with its U.S. rival, which carries high-end labels such as Perfect Moment, Giuseppe Zanotti and Mark Cross, as well as pre-owned items from Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Last year during an earnings call, Zalando said the designer luxury space was part of its plan to “lay further foundations for future growth, inspire customers with new content and storytelling formats, and improve the experience for designer brands and customers.”

In a research note in November, RBC Capital Markets’ analyst Wassachon Udomsilpa wrote that despite a 3.2 percent decline in third-quarter revenues to 2.27 billion euros, Zalando remains the bank’s preferred player in online apparel retail “given our higher confidence in its ability to capture growth once consumer demand returns.”

Udomsilpa added: “We are encouraged by Zalando’s ability to navigate a volatile and challenging backdrop.”

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