Matthew Dean, Hugo Boss' Global VP Digital
It used to be physical stores first, digital second, but the priority should be reversed in the future."
Fashion’s digital commerce in the context of Coronavirus
Accelerating digital: Coronavirus is the black swan of 2020, totally unexpected and disruptive on many levels. Dean believes in the importance of evaluating its overall impact on the business and what could be done on the digital side to navigate the situation. This exercise has led Hugo Boss to re-evaluate their digital strategy, including making a stronger effort to offer products to consumers online. “A lot of brands are having to make those same decisions”, says Dean.
Where to sell online: Brands should look into not only their own websites, but also online partners. Decisions on who to collaborate with should be based on the partners’ “consumer demographics, how they treat brands, and how they represent your products.”
Hugo Boss’ transformation and digital strategy
Why Partner Program at Zalando: Dean shares key reasons behind Hugo Boss’ decision to sell directly to consumers on the Zalando platform via the Partner Program. In Europe, Zalando is a leading fashion ecommerce platform, with a wide assortment catering to both contemporary and classic buyers. This makes the platform particularly interesting for consumers who don’t have a specific brand in mind. In addition, from a partnership standpoint, “you do a good job at communicating, explaining what your customers need...you understand the brands, it’s inherent to your nature. That’s why in many cases brands consider you before other portals”, Deans explains.
Next steps in Hugo Boss’ partnership with Zalando: On the future of Hugo Boss’ partnership with Zalando, Dean mentions the brand’s interest in increasing its sustainable assortment on the platform. There is also a strong interest in jointly figuring out even better customer services for “complicated products” such as sizing and fit for suits. This would help reduce returns, one of online fashion’s key challenges.
The human side of the fashion business
High performance vs. wellbeing: Working in fashion, already a competitive space, is even more challenging when the complexity of digital is added on top. Maintaining the human connection and asking the right questions are key to balance the pressure of high performance and people’s wellbeing in the current challenging situation.
Opportunities in crisis: The current adversity would lead brands to accelerate the potential of the online space. Given that digital as a channel will grow in its importance, brands need to consider how to “reallocate future growth around digital and how do we make the right investments”. It used to be physical stores first, digital second, but the priority should be reversed in the future, Dean believes.
This interview is part of Zalando’s In Conversation Series. We talk with leading brands on the fashion industry’s most important topics, from sustainability to digital transformation and human wellbeing.