Zalando: The Journey From Data to Emotion: How qualitative research helped a big data company change both its advertising and branding approach

Anne Strauss and Sebastian Prassek

Introduction

Big Data and New Economy companies like Zalando are often driven by technical teams, engineers, controllers and other numbers-driven professionals, who often measure the company's USP and value propositions in technical functionality, pricing algorithms and tangible service terms.

Their attitude to market understanding and research is often built on a philosophy driven by a reliance on behavioural data, summarized as follows:

  • "If you have enough data about the what and manage to sufficiently process and understand them, there is no need to ask for and understand the why."

Our experience and belief contradicts this: this assumption is not universal and does not give a company the full view on the consumer perspective which can lead to a lack of understanding and potentially a lack in brand appeal. Literature has often demonstrated that end-users don't make clearly rational decisions as often as it is assumed. (Ariely, 2008). Brand choice is often about emotions, feelings, intuitions - things we cannot consciously access (Kahnemann, 2012). We are often predictably unpredictable, or "poor witnesses of our own behaviour" (Earls, 2009) as multiple studies in Behavioural Economics have shown.