On 27 May 2020, we were delighted to feature Christopher Daguimol, the Head of Brand Communications at Zalora Group, Asia’s premier online fashion destination, in our PR Leaders virtual townhall. The half-hour dialogue covered ZALORA’s marketing communications approach in the fast-changing media landscape and how it has juggled sustainability and social responsibility to emerge as a juggernaut in the online fashion industry.

Here are highlights of the conversation (for the rest, check out our video):

How has ZALORA responded to the pandemic?

While we are not an “essential” business but an e-commerce player, we were not as hard-hit as our brick-and-mortar partners. When a lot of these stores were forced to close, they began to focus heavily on their online business, and ZALORA stepped in as an effective partner.  At the same time, we knew that we needed to be more than just a fashion retailer, so we started offering essential products such as hand sanitizers and household cleaning products to our customers.  This has proven to be an important pivot not only for our partners but also for the community. It has also improved our searchability online.

What is ZALORA’s take on trendsetters and influencers and what do you look out for when you approach them for partnerships?

Given the visuals-driven nature of our business, we needed a very focused influencer strategy. We have a team that focuses on our influencer network, which comprises 10 to 20 influencers, whom we work with for the year.  We currently do not use an influencer agency but we dedicate our staff to measure and review the performance of these influencers. We know that a good portion of our sales are driven by these influencers, so we try to monetise our relationships with them by offering share-driven revenue models and providing them with promotional codes.  We grow with them.

What is ZALORA’s approach to new Social Media Platforms and have you written off some of the older platforms like Facebook?

Instagram and Facebook are still some of our closest partners and we know that these platforms work. They have very clear attribution models to help us calculate our returns. As such, we continue the relationships.  We are fortunate to be one of their test groups whenever they introduce a new feature. As for new platforms like Tik Tok, we have been trying them out, too. There are many unknown variables when we go into a new platform. And we try to measure what we want from it as a resource. Gone are the days when we look out for what is in vogue.  We see if it would contribute to our PR goals. When I first joined ZALORA in 2014, this was something I actively tried to establish as a best practice. We are now seeing the fruits.

The fashion industry is infamous for unsustainable practices, producing a great amount of waste each year, and contributing to pollution. What is ZALORA’s response to these charges?

I’ve been in the industry for about 13 years. These issues are not new. We have had to grapple with these issues constantly. I am heartened to see more fashion companies taking this seriously and more consumers being more demanding of fashion brands. I feel that ZALORA is one of the more socially responsible e-commerce players in the industry right now.  We publish our sustainability strategies and commitments. We offer and launch circular items and clothing made of sustainable materials as part of our assortment. We constantly look for and initiate ways to make our operations more sustainable and efficient.

Are communicators doing enough to give back and how has giving back shaped you as a Communication professional?

Giving back should be everyone’s responsibility. People should be kind to one another. I always try to be more empathic in my daily work. The more human you are, the better you can communicate things. As a brand, if you humanise your messaging, regardless of how corporate they are, consumers would find them more acceptable. We could certainly do more in terms of giving back.  But there are some corporate restrictions. However, it’s not just about the CSR.   It’s about being a responsible citizen in the community, especially in hard times. Consumers are going to remember the brands that were socially responsible. That’s something that you cannot take away.

What is the relevance of a convening body like IPRS?

Having a convening body like IPRS can give us a lot of purpose as an industry.  IPRS’ structured membership provides access to a network of different professionals at different stages of their careers. We would be able to mentor the young ones and share more best practices. As Communication professionals, we are stuck behind our desks most of the time.  But there’s a bigger community out there and we can share the joy and the pain to like-minded individuals. It’s a great way to ensure that we are progressively improving the industry and profession.