German fashion web shop About You, the second largest online European fashion retailer, officially launched in Belgium and the Netherlands following an unofficial launch in the Netherlands some time ago.
Personalized digital fashion platform
About You has only been around for four years, but is also Germany’s second largest fashion web shop, following Zalando. It was already active in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but will now expand into other European countries. A part of the Otto group, About You has targeted the Benelux as the ideal starting point “because we already have a strong network there and because the region is culturally akin to the current market. The Netherlands are also very digitally focused”, marketing director Tarek Müller said.
The official launch in Belgium and the Netherlands coincides with an elaborate marketing campaign, to succeed its soft launch four months ago. “Those four months were mostly to get our algorithms up to track and adjust them to the local market. The Western European fashion industry is largely identical, but we added several locally important brands to our product range”, Müller added.
Algorithms are definitely important for the online fashion platform, because they had to learn specifics about the average Belgian and Dutch consumer. “Our model is based on inspiration and personalization. Everyone who logs into About You gets to see their own name in the header and a personalized product range based on their own interest. It is like an online fashion magazine, tuned entirely to you.”
“Zalando and Amazon are boring”
About You considers itself to be an inspirational platform for fashion fans, filling the hole giants like Amazon and Zalando have left, according to Müller. “Amazon and Zalando are good for everyone who knows what they are looking for. You quickly need several hours to browse those websites though. You only go to Zalando if you have a clear question, but for everything else, it is a boring location: a digital warehouse.”
If consumers are not looking for something specifically but want to get inspired, then About You is the “place to be”. “We want to offer the shopping street customer experience online: browse around, go window shopping, a place for impulse buys and to get surprised. We do that through our “stories”, content and looks, al provided by our editors and our influencers.”
On average, visitors come to About You once a week, mainly on mobile devices. “Whenever they have five minutes of free time, they check About You. Their first goal is to get inspired: to get to know brands, to discover trends, to see what their style icons are wearing… It is that entirely different approach that has helped us become the second largest European fashion web.”
Pioneer in influencer marketing
When it comes to “influencer marketing”, About You is a pioneer: the fashion platform set up ten collaborations with local “influencers” for its Benelux launch, from well-known footballers to vloggers and tv celebrities. The goal is to have about thirty collaborations in the Benelux. By comparison, the German online platform has about seventy influencers in its local market, a strategy it introduced right from its launch.
“We call them idols and they get to pick whatever they want from our product range. Those looks help inspire people that follow them: we quickly noticed that there is nothing better to inspire people than other people. We do not force them, because everything has to feel authentic and the idols have to really like wearing those clothes too”, Müller said.
The company also introduced the About You Awards in May, to celebrate social media stars. “They are the real stars of this day and age, but are rarely celebrated. We felt we had to remedy that and considering we had 900 people present, but influencers and brand partners, it was a great success.”
Marketplace and retailer
To service an entire market, About You uses a hybrid model, just like Zalando and other eCommerce companies. It has a number of its own brands and the best-selling items in stock, but the remainder of the product range comes straight from the brands. In that sense, About You is both a traditional retailer and a platform.
Müller says this is necessary to keep storage prices under control and still be able to service customers quickly. “Customers hate it when they get five separate packages for a single order (because people often buy multiple things in fashion) and they also hate it when they do not get things delivered quickly. That is why we need to have the best-selling items in stock: this helps lower the number of packages per order down to 1.4 on average.”
The same goes for private labels: currently, the company has Edited and About You in storage, private labels that can help fill niches that the name brands do not fill and it allows the platform to present exclusive items. About You feels there is room for more private labels in the future, but also for more categories outside of fashion.
Nevertheless, the primary focus is on the international expansion. Within six months of its Benelux operation, About You wants to enter several other European markets: Poland, Czechia, and Scandinavia. After that, it will head south. “In the next few years, we want to expand our presence in continental Europe and become a top three player in fashion retail”, Müller said.