Zalora tapped former Red Bull head of digital Elias Pour in September as its new chief marketing officer, taking over from Tito Costa, who had taken on the CMO function while also holding the role of managing director.
Pour is now part of the leadership team that leads over 150 people, while specifically leading the full marketing operations of the fashion e-commerce retailer. He has relocated to South East Asia from Australia, where he spent his last eight years working for brands such as Red Bull, as well as Adobe and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The Drum caught up with Pour to chat about Zalora's omnichannel approach, its influencer marketing and advertising strategy, solving logistical challenges for major sales days such as 11.11 and competing with the likes of Lazada.
Since joining Zalora, what has been your immediate priorities as CMO?
I joined in early September and my immediate priorities were around finding that way to break-even as fast as possible. For example, where do you stop consuming from the business and start contributing to it? Which is really important.
My first 30 days were all about listening and learning. Zalora is a very complex business operation in a very complex region. It is important that we make the right decisions in the beginning.
Now, I would say my priorities would be going into this very important holiday period with 11.11 and 12.12 [a similar shopping festival to 11.11 and Black Friday in Asia], and making sure that we have the proper capabilities to support those really key dates.
It has been really important for me to show support to the teams and make sure that we are well prepared for that. And lastly, as we are going through such a high growth period as a business, we are doing a lot of hiring in preparation for next year.
In terms of marketing and advertising the brand, do you think anything can be done better? What do you want to introduce?
Moving into 2019, we will definitely find a better balance between short-term and long-term brand initiatives, so we will definitely see a balance there. But it is also a little bit early to go into the proper tactics at the moment.
Zalora introduced its omnichannel approach (O2O) in 2014. How has the progress been and how will you take it further?
That was a very important project that we looked at and initiated back in 2014. It has been a very important part of how we assess both online and offline. For us, going into next year, it is going to be very important to double-down on the fact that we are an online pure player that operates fashion e-commerce.
We will definitely invest more in advance in experiments that are physical. We know our consumers are demanding that from us too. They are very digital-first but they are starting to crave a little bit more of a well-curated, offline and physical experience, so we are going to do that too.
However, for omnichannel, the offline to online play, it is probably more relevant to the traditional brick and mortar stores that are now connecting the dots. We have a very strong heritage, being an online pure player, so for us, it is more of an exploration space offline to offline than it is for many of them.
We are offering free delivery and free returns, which solves a number of problems for a lot of our consumers. They can order and try it out at home and if there are any items they are not happy with, it is a no-questions-asked return policy. So it is super, super easy for our consumers.
How does Zalora spend its media and advertising budget, and work with influencers?
As on online pure player, we have this innate tendency to spend a lot on digital. Influencer marketing is a very, very critical component of that for us. We see them as our partners, we invest in both research and product development with them and we did a bag collection a while ago. We just launched a bag with Jessica Jung and we have even more upcoming collaborations.
Influencers are very much centred in our marketing strategy already and that's something they really want to scale for and double down on next year.
In terms of our overall investment, we do have a majority of our spend going into digital but we will probably find a little bit of an increase in investment going into offline next year. We will invest more in events, experiences, and pop-ups.
In my opinion, influencer marketing works best when it activates well-curated brands, so it is really important for us to curate our brand really well. That is, both digital but also offline.
Do you think the SEA fashion e-commerce scene has become too crowded and saturated, with Love, Bonito and Pomelo in the market, as well as e-commerce players like Lazada/Taobao having a fashion collection?
I definitely think there is much more to come in this space. I don't think we have hit critical mass yet and so I definitely do not think the market is oversaturated. Love, Bonito and Pomelo are actually very important partners for us too. We do not really see them as competitors but as partners.
With Lazada and the general merchandise players, I think there is a proposition of e-commerce players that sell apparel and clothing like us, which is purely focused on fashion.
I think we solve two different problems for consumers and we do not really see general merchandisers as our main competitors. We do not really aim to sell batteries and tool belts.
What makes Zalora special and what makes you stand out among the rest?
I think it is the singular focus on just being a fashion player. That really sets us apart. You see that brands show a lot of preference for us too. They want to partner with somebody who also works very closely with them, preserving their branding and visual identity, which is really, really key.
I think our opportunity in this market is that we have a very strong heritage in being a fashion-only player. We will definitely double-down on that too.
How is Zalora trying to improve logistics to deliver products on time, especially during high-peak periods like 11.11?
One of the most fascinating things about this region is also how dynamic and complex it is. I think one of our key unique selling points at Zalora is how we have embraced that complexity.
If you look at our business model from the supply chain, to order fulfilment, to local marketing, to customer experience, we really embraced that complexity and we have delivered to thousands of different islands in the region, which I think is a testament to our commitment to the region, as well.
We have the ability now to deliver to tier three, tier four cities, which are not the typical big and major cities. People living there are not very close to high street streams and brands, but now they can now have access to some of the most fascinating products and brands, which we can deliver it the next day or within a couple of days, that is amazing.
The proposition will be properly tested during 11.11 and 12.12. We feel very confident in the rise in demand that we have, that we will be able to meet all those expectations.