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E-COMMERCE, FASHION, TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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ZALORA's CEO Gunjan Soni to grace SAP Industries Forum 2020

The company is set to redefine fashion and e-commerce with its Sustainability Strategy.

ZALORA's CEO, Gunjan Soni, is in charge of strategy, marketing and operations for the online fashion retailer. She honed her knowledge and expertise after a diverse career working in fashion, media and broadcasting and management consultancy. In 2018, Gunjan was recognised amongst the Top Leaders under 40 by The Economic Times.

Before joining ZALORA, Gunjan held C-suite and executive posts with Myntra-Jabong and Star India. She is on the advisory board of Ad-Tech India & London, the Facebook Global Client Council, and InMobi’s advisory board.

In a brief chat with Asian Banking and Finance, Gunjan shares about customer expectations, ZALORA’s omnichannel browsing experience, a renewed focus on sustainability for Asia’s diverse fashion ecosystem, as well as her upcoming session at SAP Industries Forum.

Can you tell us about your operations in Southeast Asia? How has the company performed since it started in 2012?
Since our inception in 2012, we have taken pride in being a local Asian leader in the fashion e-commerce industry. We embrace Southeast Asia’s vast diversity, and curate product offerings and services that deliver true value to the consumers here. We have built a strong presence across the region’s biggest and most influential markets over the years, notably in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

Our performance has been superlative! Helping drive the adoption of e-commerce with our strong brand and curation has led to over 50 million visits a month and over 20 million mobile app downloads across our markets that we serve via three fulfilment centres in the region. As one of the first fashion e-commerce players of scale, we have the lion’s share of the online fashion market in most of our markets making us the largest vertical specialist player. In the last few years, we have been focused on inching our way to profitability, and we have been seeing dramatic improvements as we gained scale especially from 2018 onwards.

What are some of the trends that can instantly trigger customers’ purchasing behaviour? How do you engage and adapt quickly to the wants and needs of your target customers?
Personalisation, visual and video-led search and content, as well as influencer pull, are some of the rapidly evolving trends impacting the expectations and purchasing behaviour of today’s customers. For instance, the ability to deliver personalised and reliable content might have given a company an edge over its competitors in the past. Fast forward to today, personalised content has become an expectation, and a good brand experience can instantly sway a customer’s purchasing behaviour. We are thus constantly working on optimising the browsing experience for customers through innovative offerings, such as our visual search feature, which allows customers to take a photo of their favourite clothing item, and instantly see visually similar products available on ZALORA. We have also introduced an AI-driven personalised ‘Just for You’ page to show consumers exclusive collections that cater to their fashion choices, based on what they have browsed so far. We are also launching a Get The Look page to inspire shoppers on how to mix and match or style certain items together to achieve a look.

We capitalize on our social media channels as a lever for engagement and growth. We launched shoppable posts on Instagram and use the swipe-up feature in promoting products and brands, giving immediate access to interested consumers to purchase on ZALORA. We also work with social media influencers from across the region and platforms to create relevant and interesting content for our target audience. We believe that in fashion, visual cues and representation are important in driving desire to purchase.

To ensure that we are also continuously engaging and adapting quickly to our customers’ needs and preferences, we recently established the “Data Sciences Innovation Lab”, where we are able to obtain insights and deliver a faster response to trends in the industry. For example, by identifying these trends and gaps in the region, we became one of the first e-commerce companies to launch a modest wear range to suit local consumer preferences, especially in markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia. This is testament to our commitment to embrace the complexity of the region, and curate product offerings and adapt services to suit the consumers in this side of the world.

The fashion industry has often been questioned for breaching ethical practices. What’s your take on conscious consumerism? Why is it becoming more important nowadays?
This is a topic I feel strongly about personally. As the leading fashion e-commerce player in Southeast Asia, we see it as both an opportunity and a responsibility to not just align ourselves with our consumer’s evolving needs and preferences, but to also leverage our unique position in the market to influence our suppliers and supply chain partners to operate in a more sustainable way as well. I am sharing three examples of what we are doing. For more information, please refer to our public commitments here:

  • Circular Fashion: We recently partnered with luxury marketplace reseller, Style Tribute, in Malaysia and Singapore to allow consumers to purchase pre-loved fashion luxury items on our website and mobile app.
  • Sustainable material tagging: We are working with our brand partners to make available more information on the materials and sources of our products, so that consumers are empowered to make more informed purchasing decisions. Through these efforts, we hope to shape a sustainable fashion ecosystem and make a positive difference in the way we conduct our business.
  • We are also committed to reducing ethical distrust in the fashion and e-commerce industry, by ensuring that all products curated for our consumers are 100% authentic. It is especially important nowadays to be a reliable and responsible brand that our consumers can trust, and we will continue to remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering the best-in-class customer shopping experience in the region.

Can you give us a glimpse of what you will share at the SAP Industries Forum 2020?
At the SAP Industries Forum 2020, I will be presenting on the topic of Sustainability in Retailing, and what e-commerce platforms can do to create financial value while protecting the environment and generating social value, both within their operations and along supply chains.

I will also be sharing more on how ZALORA is using its unique position to influence South East Asia’s fashion ecosystem. This includes introducing our Sustainability Strategy, which takes a holistic approach in involving all stakeholders in the fashion ecosystem—from customers, brands and vendors, to ZALORA employees, to meet our goals, whether in reducing our carbon footprint across all activities and being more stringent in the selection of products and packaging materials.

Last but perhaps most topical, I will be touching on the impact of COVID-19 on the e-commerce industry as a whole, as well as the measures that have been implemented by the company to mitigate its impact. As a business with a strong presence across the region, we have been closely monitoring developments around the pandemic, and are taking the necessary precautions to protect our teams and manage our operations accordingly.

I look forward to connecting with the audience and the other speakers at the forum soon!

SAP Industries Forum 2020: Reimagining the Future of Retail is on 23 April at 11:00 am (SGT). For details about the event, click here. To register, click here

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