How Zalando Uses Mobile Notifications

Over the course of 2016 I followed Zalando’s mobile apps closely and took screenshots of the mobile notifications I got from Zalando’s mobile apps — from Zalando’s main app to Zipkart, MOVMNT and, most interesting of all, Fleek-.

Why this is important: With a mobile traffic share of 67% and mobile order share of >50%, Zalando is and has to be a „mobile first” company.

And on mobile, notifications are essential. They are the primary ‚inbox’, real estate more valuable than anything else on the smartphone. Hence, it is important to get the way one engages with customers there right. Too much and the app loses access (and, more importantly, the trust of the user), too little and a huge opportunity is missed.

Here is what I learned in how Zalando approaches mobile notifications:

Lets start with ZipCart. Look at the screenshots above. In the first half of this year, the people behind ZipCart clearly had no idea where even to begin. The team behind ZipCart went with the most basic approach imaginable:

To get the user to start using the app, the app reminded the user every day that, essentially, it exists. With the same notification text every day.

The message says: „Tried already? Ordered today, delivered today! Only at ZipCart!”

Now, daily may not sound like a high frequency. But getting the same, obnoxious message every day gets annoying fast, no matter how many notifications one may get every day. (I get a lot of them, don’t ask.)

The lesson: The same daily message will only annoy users. It will show them you don’t value their time enough to even change the message you are sending them. This is a mobile notification strategy that will get your app’s ability to push mobile notifications to the users phone faster revoked than you can say ‘engage, my fellow zombie’.

This is harmful because ZipCart, as a fast delivery app, relies in theory more on notifications to succeed than any other of Zalando’s mobile apps.

Fortunately, Zalando is usually far more sophisticated then it comes to the company’s other mobile apps. (And fortunately, ZipCart stopped sending that message.)

As you can see in the screenshots above, Zalandos main app mostly uses mobile notifications more or less only for pointing out current deals and discounts. Makes sense, given that the Zalando main app has not much else to go on. Sometimes, the Zalando app pushes out a not so subtle hint that there is new stuff to look at. These are obviously re-engagement efforts for users that have not opened the app for X days. (Yes, I’m guilty as charged there.)

(“WOW! Additional 10% off on all sneakers & jackets on sale!”)

(“Want something new? Here you can find +1.000 brands and the top trends of the season.”)

Zalando also plugged Bread&Butter through their main app’s notifications:

(Of course, Zalandos apps use notifications for messages about orders and returns as well. I just dont happen to have screenshots of those handy.)

What already gets noticably when looking at the notifications for Zalando’s main app and ZipCart is how Zalando uses emojis to visually differentiate its mobile notifications.

This gets even more distinct when looking at Fleek’s mobile notifications. Fleek uses at least two emojis in every notification. Sometimes, the team behind Fleek, playfully, sends notifications consisting only of emojis.

Fleek uses current events to connect their notifications with the lifes of their users. Like the European Soccer Championship:

(„Team Spirit! With these looks, it won’t be an own goal.”)

Or the presidental election in the US:

(„At Fleek, you have more than two options.”)

Flekk also occasionally reminds users that they can follow brands in Fleek:

(„Nike has 486 followers. Which are your favorite brands?”)

Or points out features of the app:

(„Collect your style favorites in your whish list.”)

Those both last two show how one can use notifications for showing users single features of an app without overwhelming them in the onboarding process. Fleek nudges users from time to time towards using features. (This is also necessary because Fleek is unusually complex for a shopping app and is still growing in features. Not a bad thing per se, just something one has to keep in mind with regards to the user experience.)

Fleek uses notifications to highlight categories and brands:

(Top line: “Those winter jackets are worth their money.”)

(“Buttoned up! The best shirts at a glance.”)

Fleek announces new brands coming on board (first notification) and sometimes tries to be more playful (second notification):

(Second notification: “Sunday, 8 PM: Perfect timing for a fancy date night! It will be even better with this outfit”)

Sometimes, Fleek goes with the surprise approach:

And sometimes, Fleek goes with the seasonable approach. Here, notifications from the summer point to summer clothes:

Pointing towards trends, here hats:

Or, simply letting loose:

(Second notification: “Our ultimate secret to becoming a real Pokémon Go champ”)

Fleek uses notifications also to point at events the Fleek team is organizing at Fleek’s several social media outposts, here Snapchat:

(First notification: “Looking for a lunch date? Meet jenniferdifede on our Snapchat”)

Fleek is a good example for how creatively notifications can be put to use. This is not a gimmick. Compare the Fleek and the ZipCart messages. The former are far more easily accepted by people into their every day life.

This is how you create loyalty. This is how you make customers coming back to your mobile shopping app if not daily than at least several times a week.

Look at the times these Fleek notifications were sent. I wrote some time ago about Fleek’s „Prime time notifications” approach. This still holds true: Fleek notifications arrive usually around 19:30 PM to 20:30 PM.

When looking at Fleek’s diverse mobile notifications, something else becomes apparent: The more a shop knows about its customers, the better that shop can customize mobile notifications. This can lead directly to a more diverse set of notifications. So, the more signals a mobile shopping app can gather — for example through users following stylists, brands, liking outfits, etc.- the better the notifications can become. Hence, the more likely it becomes for that shopping app to become a part of the users’ every day life. A virtuous cycle, in theory.

Social shopping and mobile notifications, it seems, will be going hand in hand from now on. This is a space we’ll keep an eye on.

Now last not least, MOVMNT: MOVMNT uses mobile notifications mainly for informing users of current deals and discounts. This is very much in line with the outlet marketplace app that it is.

„Quick! The Sale ends tomorrow! Take your chance!”

(“The last hours with great SALES offers!”)

Countdown to expiration of a discount:

(From bottom to top: “Marcel, your extra discount expires tomorrow!” “Marcel, your extra discount expires today!” “Marcel, your extra discount expires in 4 hours!”)

(“Everything has to go | 20% OFF We need space for the autumn / winter collection!”)

A few things should have become clear by now:

  • Zalando takes mobile notifications very seriously. And rightly so.
  • Different teams pursue different approaches at Zalando’s mobile apps.
  • There is not just one way for doing it right.
  • There are certainly careless ways that destroy more value than they do create.

As Zalando is one of the most innovative companies in this space it will be very interesting to watch how they will iterate their mobile notifications going forward.

Did you find this insightful? Subscribe to our free email newsletter to receive new articles on weekdays. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook.


Originally published at earlymoves.com on November 15, 2016.