Marketing in crisis: connecting with customers amid adversity

As more and more countries are entering a second wave of lockdown restrictions, there is great value in looking back at the lessons we learned from the first wave.

In this article we’ll walk you through marketing activation in times of crisis, with marketing expertise from our Managing Director at Zalando Marketing Services and SVP Advertising, Andreas Antrup, video guidance and insightful use cases from our partner VF Corporation. Here we have collected some of the top lessons we’ve learned so far about connecting with customers, guaranteeing business success and coping with unforeseen challenges such as lockdown restrictions at times of crisis.

Be part of the solution


Engaging and inspiring customers during a crisis is not an easy task. The only way to successfully communicate with your customers is to listen to them, and to directly create solutions that answer their shifting demands. For example, at Zalando we saw a big shift in customer buying behavior, including a growing demand for sports and loungewear items. This reflected the increased desire to stay healthy and do sports while spending the majority of time at home. For instance, we saw a 10x growth in yoga equipment and 17x search volume increase for sweatpants and comfy products.

To reflect this shift in customer behaviour and to help customers cope with isolation, we created the #StyledayFriday initiative. Fashion as an industry has had to adjust marketing plans, cope with changing consumer behaviour and adapt campaign planning and tonality. Another great example of how brands managed this shift and listened to customers to become part of the solution can be found in Nike’s #playinside campaign, which encouraged sports at home and created a health-conscious community for customers to be part of. This joint campaign with Zalando resulted in 1.7M homepage impressions and a 31% sell through uplift.

Adapting to shifting customer demands: Top tips from Andreas Antrup


1. Digital is now: this is becoming increasingly clear and applies not only to your sales channels but also to your approach to customers and marketing campaigns. 


2. Have the right channel mix: follow where your customer is spending time and make sure you have the right channel mix to reflect this.


3. Have the right message: be caring, relevant and positive in your messaging. This is not the time to be pushy on sales, but to be there for your customers. Be part of the solution for customers who are struggling with uncertainty in these times.


4. Have a strong brand: the more you invest in building your brand in times of normalcy, the more robust and resilient your brand will be to withstand crisis and be authentic throughout.


5. Listen to customers and understand your data: You can leverage ZMS Insights to learn about changing customer behaviour on an ongoing basis.


6. Speed is of the essence: be agile, be creative and be bold. Successful partners were able to make things happen on a 6 week horizon, instead of taking 6 months to plan out a marketing campaign. We believe this agility will be the most long-lasting effect of the Coronavirus pandemic - that as an industry, we can be much faster at reacting to customer trends.

Shifting customer trends


If you want to better understand the customer trends we observed during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic and what we learnt from them in more detail, watch the video below:



See how they did it: VF Corporation


A great way to successfully implement those lessons in your business and marketing strategy is by leveraging insights. A great example of a partner using data to drive success at a time of crisis is VF Corporation, the company that manages global brands like The North Face, Timberland and Vans, and just recently made headlines for acquiring Supreme. Timberland, for example, is very progressive in how they incorporate insights throughout their go-to market process, strategy, and product validation. For instance, they use insights provided by Zalando Marketing Services to pinpoint the most relevant target audience for upcoming product launches, and then test different campaign visuals and copy against their target audience to identify the most powerful, customer-centric go-to-market approach. 


If you want to find out even more examples of brands successfully connecting with customers during the crisis, watch the video below. Learn more about how VANS drives sell through of bestseller and never-out-of-stock assortment while still promoting newness, or how The North Face was able to reflect customers’ current sentiment in a recent branding campaign: 



Zalando Marketing Services is available to all Zalando partners and enables you to gain unique insights and access to millions of customers, as well as tap into our fashion, beauty and sports content creation expertise. If you want to engage and inspire your customers, increase your visibility and actively drive sales, watch our video guide and get in touch with our Zalando Marketing Solutions team via