Zalora CEO: “We’ve only scratched the surface in the world

lifestyle,” Gunjan Soni, CEO of Zalora, told Inside Retail.

Soni feels that there is a lot of potential in this space, “as human behaviour is being shaped in wonderful ways, as their sense of self identity and self expression gives clear purpose and meaning to people’s lives”.

“It gives a lot of meaning to the work of our employees, and if you think a decade ahead, we will see innovation in Web 3.0 technologies and also the use of data for more immersive experiences,” she added.

A confident start

From a financial perspective, a big milestone for the company was starting 2022 on a firm financial footing after breaking even the year before. 

Soni explained that this gave the company immense ability to not just struggle through this period of uncertainty, but actually walk through it with confidence.

“The more exciting story for the brand, as we hit this 10-year mark, is that we are on a very strong footing, with around 50 million visits to our site on a monthly basis and around 20 million downloads of our app,” she noted.

With 75 per cent of its customers being female, and 85 per cent of its revenue coming from the app, Zalora is heavily reliant on this component of their marketing mix and its high ratings of 4.8 to 4.9 make it one the best rated apps in terms of user experience in the marketplace.

Soni acknowledges that as a vertical specialist in this space, the company has a unique selling proposition for its consumers and they are now offering over 3000 brands on their e-commerce platform.

She explained that at least half of its fashion portfolio is with brands that are only available on Zalora, and its customers are revelling in the experience, making this a strong differentiating factor for the company’s journey so far.

Emerging trends

Against the backdrop of inflationary pressures and the global nature of interconnected commerce, Soni feels that the company is resolutely staying on the path towards delivering best-in-class services to its customers.

“We are seeing a lot of interesting, emerging trends. During the pandemic everyone was looking for home wear that was comfortable, but now we are seeing a resurgence of travel wear, bags and accessories as well as occasion wear,” she stated.

Zalora also recently unveiled a supermarket-inspired pop-up store in collaboration with Adidas at Bugis Junction in Singapore. The store is designed with a supermarket layout, with around 90 SKUs of Adidas products. 

Through a ‘click-and-mortar experience’, customers can purchase their items by scanning the QR codes and adding them to their shopping cart on the Zalora app. Their order will then be delivered right to their doorstep.

Soni believes that immersive experiences like this are important for the consumer, as it can become part of a shopper’s entertainment process, while still giving them the access and the variety that e-commerce offers.

Luxury is key

Interestingly, Soni also explained that Zalora made the pivot into the luxury space during the height of the pandemic, along with launching the beauty, living and kids categories.

“The luxury category was a real surprise for us, as it is super resilient and continues to do very well as our affluent consumers saw an increase in their disposable income and not the other way around,” she said.

“I think at a broader level, we are very cognisant of the fact that our luxury consumer is somewhat different than the broader population. There are no right and wrongs here, but we are always studying things finely to make sure our curation is on the right track.”

The typical Zalora customer has about 1.5x to 2x times the iPhone penetration rate of the average population making them particularly tech-savvy. The company also tracks a ‘Fashion Forward Index’, which includes almost 90 per cent of its customers.

“For example, if you look at our top tier customers, the top 25 per cent of them who are loyal and are most actively shopping on our site, at least 40 per cent of them are enjoying the annual paid subscriptions, and this gives you a picture of the kind of customer that we are catering to,” she said.

The pre-loved category in the luxury segment is also becoming a very vibrant offering for the site, and the luxury category has experienced triple digit growth since its launch two years ago.

A new era beckons

“I think first and foremost, we are going to really go deep into personalisation and loyalty. We believe that the consumer is ready for a lot more personalised experiences,” she stated.

The company’s search function on the app and the website is now completely personalised, and the brand is working on making a completely personalised landing page for its customers, taking a leaf out of popular video streaming platforms.

“There’s a lot of content and inspiration that people are looking for, so how do we curate it in a more personalised way for them? We want to create a uniquely differentiated experience for them,” she added.

Zalora launched its cashback programme 18 months ago, and it also has a subscription led offering that is heavily tailored to fashion, as the company is a vertical specialist in this space.

The company is also working on creating highly curated experiences for its luxury offerings, and this is something that could be unveiled soon.

Apart from that, Soni has noticed that 65 percent of its consumers, especially Millennials, are displaying a higher affinity towards sustainable products. As a result, the company is working towards increasing its offerings in this space on the platform.

Interestingly, she revealed that the company is working on curated non fungible tokens (NFTs) and she feels that the traceability factor could be fascinating in the fashion world for the long term.

The future is bright

Soni is however pragmatic about this space, as the company is actively tracking the use cases of NFTs, but is mindful of the pitfalls associated with this fad.

“The key is to follow meaningful use cases and not just gimmicky ones, because then the marketing and advertising would unlikely be sticky,” she stated.

According to Soni, Southeast Asia has a very young population, and e-commerce adoption as well as social media adoption rates are off the charts. This makes it a great region in terms of adoption markers for data collection for the company.

“We have had virtual trial rooms, which are like virtual fitting rooms, which have had high adoption rates by Gen Z customers, and you can expect a lot more interesting technologies being developed in the coming years to serve this demographic,” she noted.

Another big success story for the brand has been the rise of its modest wear offerings. Soni says the range is being sold throughout the region and is doing extremely well.

“There has been a lot of active interest from global brands, including sporting brands, in terms of understanding what modest wear means and creating product offerings for it,” she added.

Soni has also noticed that comfortable fabrics in this space are also becoming more popular these days with their shoppers.

“It was very interesting to see how the working from home (WFH) movement and comfortable fabric factor enter the traditional wear and modest wear domain,” she concluded.