Who Will Be the First Online Fashion Retailer With a Mobile-Fueled Events Strategy?

Bread and Butter by Zalando

After attending Zalando’s first yearly event, I wrote in “First Impressions From Zalando’s First Bread and Butter“:

As far as I can see, there is no experimentation going on to bring online and offline together or to, for example, get a sense of how location-based services on smartphones could help a large event. In fact, if you didn’t know beforehand that this is a Zalando event, you couldn’t guess that by attending.

That may have been harsh. But given how sophisticated Zalando is by now when it comes to strategies for the mobile world, the company’s first large end-consumer event was, well, rather uneventful from a strategic viewpoint.

Of course, as with everything, Zalando will be iterating with the Bread and Butter event. But let me be obvious for a second: a yearly event can’t evolve as fast as a mobile app that is getting updated every few weeks.

Hence, it would have made more sense to go with a more forward thinking approach to pile up first experiences and market feedback. Instead, we got QR codes.

Events are interesting tools for online retailers. That is why Amazon and Alibaba are doing yearly events. The goals for those events can differ greatly. Especially for online fashion retailers events can be very promising, given the attributes of the product category. Besides Zalando, Yoox Net-a-Porter, Vente Privée, and even Asos, could benefit a great deal from a dedicated events strategy with a mobile mindset.

How could this look like?

Here a few thoughts. Keep in mind that these are just examples, shot mainly from the hip.

First, a dedicated events app, for connecting all the dots.

Second, a big splashy yearly event to get onto people’s radar. (And to be able to attract brands and celebrities.) This great for many things, but last not least it helps get the events app into people’s hands.

Third: Now it gets interesting. There are several things an online fashion retailer could do now:

  • Use the events app people have downloaded for the programme of the splashy big event to promote and integrate other things.
  • Fun aspects like treasure hunts, group buying at events could get implemented when and if those make sense.
  • Use beacons (ibeacons, products from Estimote and others) to easily connect users with the products they are looking at right now and to do other hyperlocal things at the event. (One example: user stays X minutes at brand Y’s booth -> items presented by brand Y that are closest to the user get added automatically to a ‘look at it later’ tab within the app, preferably already linked up to the online retailer’s main app.)
  • Use beacons to connect nearby people with each other.

That last part may sound like a nice add-on. But this is actually where the magic of mobile comes in: Giving people the ability to connect to and communicate with friends and connect with new acquaintances (and follow other entities (brands, organizer, influencers))1 should be the stepping stone to the next level:

  • Maybe satellite events around the main yearly event.
  • Maybe smaller regional events around the year.
  • Maybe even small self-organized events (brand sponsored & P2P, or set up by local brands etc.)
  • Maybe collaboration with existing events (With Bread and Butters current focus, music festivals would be obvious candidates for Zalando, for example.)

Once an events app is set up for integrating ticket solutions, community aspects and interactions with products/brands and options for buying items, those named above and other options present themselves easily.

At the end, it is about leveraging the mobile sensors: GPS, the camera. One can look, for example, at Amazon’s Treasure Trucks to see how mobile can be used creatively to create a new shopping experience.

But first, the online retailer needs to get the events app established. It is hard to get onto people’s smartphones. That is why every incentive one can leverage counts. Once the events app is installed, events can be turned into a strong brand building / customer loyalty strengthening part of the business.

Even if Zalando keeps doing ‘only’ one big yearly event, it is thus still disappointing to see the first event go by without a hint towards any mobile events strategy. Strategically, it is a lost year. (Even though the event itself may very well have been a success on its own for Zalando.)

Hopefully, it has become clearer now why I was so disappointed with Zalando’s first Bread and Butter.

(For those who look closely, yes, there is a startup idea or two hidden in here somewhere.)

More on this topic:

  1. Obviously, an app like this should not be thought of in the same vein as a WhatsApp or WeChat. Users who set up profiles should always be given the ability to connect to and show off their accounts at other messaging and social media services. This way people can use the events app like a business card, intended for connecting with others in their preferred communications channel. This doesn’t take away from the location-based, and locally confined, communications aspect of our hypothetical app. Quite the contrary: Connections with the messaging giants create another incentive for using the app at the event and ease the fact that the app and its usage would normally be confined to the events attached to it. One alternative to this: Using events and a dedicated events app for building a more permanent community could also make a lot of sense. It depends on the ultimate goal, evidently. 


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