Rahul Sachitanand
May 13, 2020

As it pivots from fashion to essentials, Zalora's CMO leans on personalised marketing amidst a pandemic

Ahead of his appearance at Campaign Connect, Jo Bjordal discusses the way forward as the ecommerce company has rapidly shifted focus in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As it pivots from fashion to essentials, Zalora's CMO leans on personalised marketing amidst a pandemic

Jo Bjordal took over his new role as the chief marketing officer of Zalora in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the board, brands were slashing marketing budgets, sweeping lockdowns were being rolled out and spending was coming to a grinding halt. 

As the marketing head of an ecommerce platform that thrives on conspicuous consumer consumption, Bjordal, a rainmaker-turned-marketer, pushed his team of 100 to think fast and on their feet. The brand's operations were quickly retooled to focus on essentials and away from other more impulsive categories. 

This pivot comes just a year after Zalora decided to focus on fashion as its core offering and tied up with a wide assortment of brands in that space to boost its business. Now, Bjordal, who has been with Zalora since 2014, finds himself compelled to rewrite the marketing playbook, as the firm looks to recast itself in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jo Bjordal will be speaking at Campaign Connect on June 2nd in a special session with brand leaders and Campaign editors to discuss how brands can pivot and adapt to the post-COVID environment. The unique two-day global event will look at how the world of marketing communications gets back to business and what that will look like. Travelling the world from Asia, making its way to Europe then North America, Campaign Connect will bring you the latest insights and advice from global leaders in media, marketing, advertising, along with our own editorial teams. 


Previously, the firm invested marketing dollars to unearth local fashion trends for its brands partners. For instance, it launched Zalia, a modest wear line back in 2014, to target consumers in Indonesia and Malaysia. Meanwhile, in Singapore it was early to spot the massive interest in Korean fashion brands. 

Now, Bjordal has had to relook at this entire plan. The ecommerce company needs to focus on a different set of brands to make sure its shift to essentials sticks. "In a span of just a few months, the retail industry has been turned on its head, with the closure of retail stores and many others redirecting their businesses towards e-commerce channels instead," he told Campaign. "Customer behaviours have also changed, with demands pivoting towards essentials like food and health and wellness products."

Essentials sold on Zalora

Even as other marketers have been in retreat, ecommerce brands have been busy trying to keep pace with this rapid shift in demand from offline to online channels. "We are always looking at ways to evolve our operations and services, as well as our marketing, advertising and communication strategies to better connect with our target audiences," he adds.

To try to better understand these shifts and anticipate shifts in demand, Bjordal is leaning on his team's ability to mine data better. "I think our ability to tap on data gives us an edge in understanding the shifts in customer preferences and trends."

Zalora, he contends, can use data to piece together personalised content for consumers to enhance their experience. When the firm introduced its essentials category, with products across food, personal care and pharmaceuticals, Bjordal focussed on creating localised marketing strategies that are tailored to each market that it serves, as the etailer continues to expand its basket of basic necessities and home essentials.

To give Zalora's brand partners better insights he talks up the firm's Trender data-driven solution, which he says provides access to data analytics, such as consumer insights, geo segmentation, buying behaviour, design intelligence, assortment and pricing insights and helps brands replace the guesswork around marketing, merchandising, and design.

Traditionally, Zalora has focused on fashion sales

As Bjordal has tried to steer Zalora's marketing in a new direction, he is inspired by the efforts by an assortment of other brands during this pandemic. For example, FedEx, which despite its size has been able to nimbly respond to this crisis and used its heft and global network to deliver urgently-needed medical supplies to China. 

In Asia, one brand which Bjordal identifies is Grab. In April, it introduced GrabResponse to ferry stable and clinically-well individuals to hospitals, to support Singapore’s Ministry of Health’s efforts in complementing existing ambulance services. Grab had earlier also launched GrabCare, a round-the-clock, on-demand service enabling healthcare professionals to travel to and from over 14 medical facilities and they are also supporting meal donation efforts by Gourmet Food Holdings, Zouk Group, Motherswork to deliver 2,500 food items to frontline healthcare workers. 

Campaign Asia

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