We will try on clothes with a smartphone. Zalando’s regional boss reveals plans [WYWIAD]
Daniel Rogiński, CEO of Zalando for Central and Eastern Europe: After this decade, I can say that our country remains one of the most important markets for Zalando. We are very pleased with the dynamics and the whole business. For sure, an important step in Poland was establishing cooperation with InPost, thanks to which we can collect orders from parcel lockers, which is a direct response to the needs of our customers. I have another huge reason to be proud – in fact, I shouldn’t talk about it at the end. It is an adaptive fashion collection aimed at people with disabilities. To begin with, we are launching it as part of our own brands, but we also encourage our partners to join this beautiful initiative, which has been phenomenally received.
As for the region of Central and Eastern Europe, for which I am responsible, we have only been in Hungary or Romania for a few months now – we focus on business development and reaching customers on these markets with information about our offer. However, we are also working on solutions that will make shopping at Zalando even more personalized and more convenient.
There is no denying that as an industry we do not like returns and neither do our clients. That is why our internal team is working intensively on the development of the so-called size & fit. Thanks to this technology, we can provide customers with information whether a given product in a given size matches what they and similar customers have bought so far. In short – we can advise customers on choosing the right size. This technology also allows us to assess whether the new collection will be in standard sizes or whether we should recommend choosing a larger or smaller size.
What are the effects?
I can assure you it works. Across all markets, the return rate for those items for which we offer sizing advice decreased by 10%. It matters both for us and for the environment, but it is not our last word. In the coming months, we will launch the body measurement function, and then our recommendations will be based on the actual dimensions of customers. We are also working on introducing a virtual fitting room, the project of which we are now piloting together with partner brands. It will allow users to see what an item looks like on their virtual 3D avatars. Another important topic for us is personalization. We have 1.8 million products, but we want Zalando to be tailored to each customer. I would compare our ambition to having everyone visiting Zalando he had the feeling that he was entering a luxury boutique. Similarly, we want the customer to feel that there are items selected directly for him. And we, like an experienced seller, can suggest to the client what will suit him best.
In Poland, the virtual shoe fitting room is extremely popular. However, as I understand it, creating a virtual fitting room is much more difficult.
It’s many times more difficult, actually. In the case of shoes, “virtual trying on” can actually have two dimensions – it’s about matching the length and width of the footwear to the foot. It’s really about scanning one sheet with the reflection of the foot and adjusting the dimensions of the shoes. And when it comes to clothes, we are talking about many different categories. Swimsuits, loose trousers, flared trousers, shirts… And each of these categories basically becomes a separate research issue. That is why we are investing in a project – I would say extremely ambitious – using artificial intelligence solutions. Again, this is a very complex topic and project, but at the same time extremely satisfying.
Let’s go a little further into the future. Is it possible that artificial intelligence will be able to “predict” how a child will grow – and suggest appropriate clothes in “future” sizes? When it comes to footwear, such solutions are already on the market.
Let me put it this way: it’s an interesting research area (laughs). However, I am not an expert on such potential solutions.
Staying in futurology. Do you expect a time will come when we will not go to stores to try on clothes at all and only online fitting rooms will suffice?
I think that sales channels will always coexist. I do not assume that we are fighting with other channels, and we even have solutions that allow physical stores to sell on Zalando. We are satisfied with the tests of the “virtual fitting rooms”, but in the end it will be just another tool for customers and they will always choose, being able to use both online and offline shopping.
Zalando also has its own physical stores. Only not in Poland.
We currently have 13 outlets in Germany. We’re constantly looking at how the concept is doing. Will there be similar stores in Poland? It’s hard to say at the moment.
You mentioned that no one likes returns – not even customers. However, I know quite a few people who would disagree with that. These are people who buy, for example, several pairs of shoes online and try them on, and finally choose the ones that fit the most. Zalando helped create such customer behavior through free returns.
Free returns are an integral part of our business model. However, we believe that it is not a great experience for customers to have to return items that do not suit them. So we believe that we will be able to advise them on the perfect size so that they simply don’t have to. This is my and my team’s ambition. Until then, we are trying to make this model of choosing several sizes and returning the ones that don’t fit as comfortable as possible for users.
The rest of the article is below the video
A decade since Zalando has been in Poland is a long time, you could say. How have customer choices changed from this perspective? Covid lockdowns changed the way we dress?
In fact, a lot has changed in that time. I remember that the first product sold on Polish Zalando were Reebok shorts. This 2012, the bestseller in the women’s category was the “little black dress”, a classic dress and high heels. Today, in the women’s category, jeans and white sneakers are the most popular. If we compare these two “looks” with each other, it can be said that it is quite a big change (laughs).
And the male category?
In 2012, the hits were outdoor jackets, T-shirts, high sneakers. Today? The hits are baseball caps, which sell in really amazing quantities with us. Men, like women, also like to choose white sneakers. And the pandemic itself? At that time, all comfortable, informal clothes “from the waist down” were selling well. So we had a real boom for all kinds of sweatpants and the like. However, after the lockdowns, we see that customers “refresh” their wardrobes with, for example, elegant clothes. Certainly, we now have more opportunities to use formal or evening clothes.
Polish brands are quite visible on Zalando. Is it because of their high sales?
This is my personal pride – the successes of the brands 4F, La Mania, Kazar… These Polish brands have been successful not only on our market, but also on other markets where Zalando is present. I really admire the owners and teams of these companies, because these brands have simply become Zalando champions in many markets. These companies work very hard to adapt to the needs of various customers – whether German, Italian or Polish. And the effects are truly phenomenal. Polish brands, for example, are able to produce a dedicated collection for the Italian market, which is very impressive. We do not limit ourselves to big brands, such as 4F or Kazar. We also have smaller brands – Macadamia or Fluff, which can scale fantastically with us.
Interviewer: Mateusz Madejski, Business Insider Polska journalist
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