I’ve been a product manager on the Zalando mobile apps team since 2013, and for as long as I can remember our customers have been telling us that they derive inspiration for their fashion purchases via Instagram. With more than 300 million active users sharing more than 70 million photos and videos every day, Instagram has become the perfect spot to easily share and discover new outfits and street styles.
To capitalize on Instagram’s popularity and utility, my team recently joined up with Zalando’s in-house UserLab and content and social media teams on a project exploring the wide field of user-generated content (UGC). The goal: to discover ways to inspire and engage our users even more. The result? A new iOS feature that makes Instagram shoppable for Zalando customers.
The Architects of Our Idea: You
As with any project we launch, my team invited a group of Zalando customers — including “power users,” who use our features regularly — to drive our creative process. Every month, we invite selected users to our UserLab to test our new apps and the usability of specific features. We also receive direct feedback through our app email addresses ( ios at zalando.de, android at zalando.de, and winapps at zalando.de), app store reviews ( ios, android, windows) and internal data-tracking systems. At times, we even take a guerilla approach and ask random people on the street about our ideas.
For the UGC project, we invited six customers to the UserLab for a four-hour session. We asked them about how they use and interact with platforms like Instagram and Pinterest; the aspects of those platforms that inspire them and keeps them returning; and which media outlets, websites, and personalities they follow, and why. We gave them space to come up with their own (sometimes wild!) ideas about features, apps, and platforms, and this really helped us to understand their insights and experiences.
After hours of intensive brainstorming, questioning and competitor analysis, my team learned a lot about what mattered most when concepting a UGC feature. It became clear that our users love Instagram because it’s personal, populated with high-quality images, and puts fashion items into context (who is wearing what? how do they wear it? how can one combine new items with current favorites?). We also learned that customers get frustrated when they see something they love but can’t buy it directly. Instagram lacks a simple, one-click method of purchasing items. My team and I came up with a concept to make Instagram images shoppable via the Zalando app and got to work.
How We Delivered
Our new iOS feature shows the best Instagram images to display on our mobile app and connects those images to products from our shop. Our customers already use #zalandostyle or #shareyourstyle to tag outfits they want to share with the Instagram community; using basic image recognition and manual curation, we link these hashtagged images to our products. From time to time, we also include other hashtags in the selection process.
The most inspiring tagged images go live in the app, which creates a fun challenge for our customers as they try to become featured on Zalando. This selection also encourages high-quality content, which we and our customers value greatly. (Our social media team chooses and approves new user generated images every week day. If you have an outfit to share, post it on Instagram with the hashtags #zalandostyle or #shareyourstyle and check the app some hours later to see if you were selected!)
A new section of our app shows the very best of what users share on Instagram, and is accessible directly from the start page. Tap on a style to see products that are either exact matches or very similar recommendations.
So that customers only see items they can actually purchase, we don’t feature sold-out items. For these, we’ve implemented a simple logic: If there is no product connected to an image anymore, it doesn’t appear.
This feature is still wearing baby shoes. We are still generating our first insights and monitoring how users behave with it. If you have ideas how to develop it further, please drop us a line at email@example.com.