Here’s How ZALORA Is Meeting The Challenges Of Technology Selection And The Seasonal Shopping Festivals


In addition to the pressures that the holiday shopping season traditionally exerts on retailers, organisations must also contend with the demands associated with isolated annual events such as the double digits festivals (11-11, 12-12, etc.), Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Readiness for these events requires retailers to be at the top of their game -- in terms of market awareness, organisational agility, their responsiveness to consumers, and the performance of their IT infrastructure and data analytics capabilities.

During the course of a full and frank discussion with WBR Insights and BRAZE, Li Zhiliang, Head of CRM at ZALORA Group, outlined how his organisation responds to meeting these challenges, and the approach they adopt in selecting the components of their technology stack, and in crafting their strategies for technology implementation.

A Challenging Season

Li Zhiliang heads Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Zalora, which is currently Asia's leading online fashion, beauty, and lifestyle destination, with an eye toward both the systems and data aspects of CRM, and the drive for improved communications with consumers, and throughout the enterprise.

For Zalora (as for other retailers), the holiday season is a critical time -- and with the COVID-19 pandemic, holiday season 2020 was particularly challenging. Changes in buying behaviour and a quantum leap in activity in the eCommerce and technology space saw increased adoption of online shopping, e-payments, and contactless modes of delivery.

The key drivers in this period for Zalora were change, growth, and adaptability.

A customer shift to Work From Home dynamics precipitated a change in buying behaviour, with increased demand for sports, lounge, and leisure wear. These new buying habits in turn required Zalora to challenge existing assumptions, and change the way that they approached things -- to become, in effect, more adaptable.

And with the increase in worldwide adoption of online retail, the organisation witnessed appreciable growth on the eCommerce front, with the new environment of the pandemic condensing digital transformations that might have otherwise have taken months or years into the space of a few weeks. This raised the demands on Zalora’s teams and digital infrastructure.

Establishing A Mindset For Technology Stack Selection

To meet the demands of high-pressure events like holidays and seasonal shopping festivals, it’s important to set appropriate and relevant goals for your sales and marketing personnel, and to provide readiness and clarity within those teams. At Zalora, this process begins months in advance, with discussions taking place throughout the organisation about the types of products to offer, and the best way to offer them.

With time pressures mounting during these peak periods, the mindset of a normal day won't work. Leaders and coordinators must go out of their way to make sure that the processes and the decision points guiding workers at these heightened times of activity are very clear. Shifts and timetables must also allow workers the rest they need to remain clear-headed and active.

At these times, leadership must be prepared to be forward-looking, open-minded, and capable of thinking outside the playing field when making decisions. Leaders will also benefit from speaking to different teams to get different perspectives to guide their decision-making.

From a CRM and technology perspective, assessing the current level of motivation or dissatisfaction with existing systems is critical for successful selection of the technology stack. Pain points in particular can yield rich data sets concerning what people feel is currently slowing them down, and insights into the kinds of features and tools that could make their lives easier moving forward.

This gives a starting point containing the right principles for what your stack should be. Enumerating those principles can then suggest the pathway and blueprint for bringing your technology goals to fruition. So for example, you might conclude that you need a system for data collection, a system for processing, in addition to systems for intelligence, decision-making, and engagement. A standard set of tools, perhaps -- but how you apply them is what makes the difference. As Li Zhiliang puts it:

“A lot of these systems may overlap, not speak to each other, but how the organisation effectively uses these resources is super important. How do these systems work? Be it the intelligence, the data flow, the processes, all of these things need to be thrashed out, between the different teams. From there, having this sort of framework will allow you to rally people around the organisation -- whether that be to map their existing tools, talk about their problem and how it relates to the customer, or their own customer experience. From there, you can have a much more planned, flexible approach to the transformation.”

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Technology Stack

Ease of information movement was a major consideration for Zalora, in their technology selections. This had to cover data transfer between digital tools, different databases, and different teams.

Teams at Zalora work very well with reliable systems that don’t require much time for configuration or alterations, so the flexibility and dynamism of the technology stack were also critical factors. As Li Zhiliang confirms:

“One thing that we do very well in, that I'm very proud of, is that we work very well with dynamic modules -- so that we don't have to spend so much time changing things up. I'll give you an example. Let's say I have many templates, a few hundred templates, of emails that show products to the customer, based on certain preferences. I could go into each one of them and change the code, such that it reflects a new design. But by working in a modular sense, I can change one location and have a new template update across all of them. Similarly, I can run tests in the same way, just attaching one new variant, and then test multiple variants across all your different types of communications. That dynamism expands even to simple things like the subject titles during Christmas. Maybe you share something different, but do you really need someone sitting by the computer on Christmas Eve, just changing the subject title? That's definitely not the way to go.”

Creating A Technology Stack That Can Humanise Customer Engagement

If you have a capable team and a technology stack that allows for it, it’s possible to craft a great welcome journey that tells the customer the features that you have -- one that’s able to trigger dynamically based upon their actions, and speaks to the different channels that you possess.

However, you can’t apply a blanket fix. As Li Zhiliang puts it:

“Don't stick everything with just a fixed journey that caters to everyone. You've got to add some human element to it, because a machine is not going to tell you that you need to send someone down into the streets to raise a sign board that says, ‘Shop now.’"

Each shopper will have their own personal motivations for the actions they take -- and how your organisation responds to this diversity is a key area in which your people can express themselves, and really see how to bring the flavour and that awareness of your brand.

A technology stack that can bring out the human element of customer engagement will assist your teams in achieving this. To find the right fit for your organisation, you can begin by talking to as many people as possible, using their feedback and identification of pain points as a filter. Perform due diligence and research on existing solutions, and use a structured approach to pick out the most plausible alternatives.

Test for both functionality and vulnerabilities (“How can I break this system?”), and how well the system suits the way that you actually work, and the skill sets that you have available.

And, as Li Zhiliang concludes:

“How can the design allow the injection of human consideration in a scalable manner? In an automated manner? Connecting things to reduce work, reduce manual alignment, reduce errors, just to make it much more enjoyable overall for our customers, but most importantly, the people inside the organisation serving these customers."

Source: Braze Singles Day data

Finding an opportunity to live your brand purpose, drive stronger customer relationships and increase revenue? Download the Braze ‘Single Day Marketing Guide’ to make your shopping festival strategy a success. 

About Braze: Context underpins every Braze interaction, helping brands like Zalora, Pomelo, Domino’s, HBO, Truemoney, Traveloka and Canva foster human connection across email, mobile, SMS, and web. Named a Leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms, Braze is headquartered in New York with offices in Chicago, London, San Francisco, and Singapore.

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