BERLIN: Zalando, the online fashion retailer, is betting on a festival celebrating streetwear to cultivate and grow a loyal community.

Lacking physical outlets, e-commerce companies come to be differentiated by being the least bad: companies are judged by mistakes avoided rather than optimisation. The 10-year-old Zalando has pushed a customer-first approach – with a payment-after-shipping model, for instance – but needed to extend this, hence the search for a different channel to draw together fans and customers.

In 2015, Zalando took over the Berlin festival Bread & Butter in order to foster just such a community. When the company first appointed a head of brand marketing in 2014, the aim was to pull together a definitive profile, in part through initiatives that put an active experience to the name.

“We’re respected because we’re a trustful player offering good convenience and customer service, but that’s not the tipping point [for consumers]. What we put on top with Bread & Butter is this emotional context layer”, said vice president of brand marketing, Carsten Hendrich in an interview with Business of Fashion.

“We want to be this access point for anyone, but then what comes after is more and more personalised,” explained co-chief executive David Schneider. The company’s stated aim is to become a portal to personally curated style – a Spotify of fashion.

WARC reporting from late last year looked at the company’s consumer insights tool for brands, by integrating behavioural data with sales data and social media output to segment its consumers. There are certain similarities with the Swedish music platform, where a significant part of the business is B2B.

“You need broad data and access to the whole market as well as building the logistical structure. The barriers are very high because we’ve invested hundreds of millions [of euros] in it and not many can build that. So, we’re in a good position”, said Schneider, “this is not easy to copy.”

Elsewhere in the fashion world, Tommy Hilfiger engaged with live events by taking its collection off the exclusive catwalk and bringing fans to its new product launches. In addition to the live event, customers could click through and buy the products they saw on the runway.

Sourced from Business of Fashion; additional content by WARC staff