In March 2018, Zalando entered the market for beauty products. It was the next logical step – who doesn’t want to shop all treasures in the same place? The perfect pair of jeans by Calvin Klein, sandals by Aeyde as well as a fitting nail polish by Deborah Lippmann or a fancy lip plumbing mask by Rodial (which really works, by the way)…

Next to its range of almost 9000 beauty products online, Zalando introduced a beauty station in Berlin last year. In short: High time that we sat down with Head of Beauty Pamela Wade-Lehman to talk about the chances and challenges of selling beauty products online, different buying behaviours, trends and her personal beauty favourites.


Anna Bok You’ve studied at Harvard and then started your career at McKinsey. That doesn’t sound so typical for making a step into the Beauty industry…

Pamela Wade-Lehman Directly after McKinsey, I joined Edcon – one of South Africa’s leading fashion and beauty conglomerates – and officially transitioned into the world of retail. Retail felt very tangible for me: I liked that I could personally relate to the products my company was selling. I then moved to Berlin and joined Zalando in 2017. After a year of working there, the Head of Beauty role opened up so I jumped at the opportunity. And yes, I’m a total beauty addict! I’ve been wearing make-up for as long as I can remember and I’m genuinely fascinated by the possibility that beauty products offer: to improve, protect, enhance, transform… this is really a dream job for me.

AB Zalando Beauty has been launched in March 2018. How often do customers buy beauty and fashion products together?

PWL Fashion and Beauty are natural complements. We know that our customers shop multi-brand and head-to-toe. For example, around three in five beauty baskets contain fashion items. You can compare it to a department store, where you would have customers shopping for clothing, footwear, accessories and beauty – sometimes individually and at other times all in the same basket.

AB What kind of beauty products sell the best? And what are the non-sellers?

PWL Make-up and skincare constitute a very large part of our assortment right now, so naturally, we see a high share of sales in these categories. But we’re really at the start of our beauty journey. Right now, we’re focusing on expanding our fragrance portfolio and it will be interesting to see how sales evolve alongside this.

AB Fragrance is an important keyword. I can imagine that for an online shop it’s hard to achieve the sensual experience – the smell and texture of a cream for example.

PWL Selling beauty products online comes with the challenge of helping customers to feel comfortable buying something they cannot see, touch or try on. But we believe that high-quality imagery, detailed product descriptions and ratings and reviews can all help with building this trust and comfort. What we should not forget is that online retailers also offer shopping features not possible in traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.

AB For example?

PWL For example, being able to quickly sort through thousands of brands in a catalogue or shop products according to category, concern, colour, price range or product specification.

AB Do people make classic ReBuy purchases online while buying new things offline?

PWL No, not necessarily. Replenishment is a strong use case for buying beauty online, but it’s one of many. Customers shop beauty online for a variety of different reasons: They may be looking to address a skin concern, seeking inspiration for a new make-up look or trying to find an alternative to their current product. We use digital algorithms and efficient filtering mechanisms to help our customers quickly navigate to the right product or brand for their needs.

AB How do you choose a new beauty brand? Does your personal taste influence the buying process?

PWL When selecting a new beauty brand, we evaluate both the merits of the individual brand – from quality and product range through to social media following – as well as the role that the brand can play in our portfolio. We want to make sure that we stock a desirable range of brands and products across all categories, but also that we find the right balance between global, established brands and more niche or indie brands.

AB And does your personal taste influence the buying process?

PWL My team samples products from new brands before taking a go-live decision – so in that sense: Yes, personal taste has some role to play. But at the end of the day, it’s really all about our customer.

AB What are your three favourite beauty products?

PWL It’s difficult to narrow down to only three because there are so many that I can’t live without! I love the Moringa Cleansing Balm by Emma Hardie’s. It’s luxurious, extremely moisturizing and has a gorgeous citrus fragrance. I use Bobbi Brown’s Illuminating Moisture Balm daily to give my skin an instant glow. And because I travel a lot, I’ve recently taken to facial mists. Pixi’s Rose Glow Mist is a much-loved staple in my travel bag.

AB You’ve recently expanded Zalando Beauty to Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium and Italy. How do you expect the buying behaviour will differ from each other?

PWL It’s a bit too early to comment on definitive patterns. But we can make some predictions based on general market trends: Nordic beauty consumers are known to take a strong interest in skincare and we see a lot of product innovation in skincare coming from this region. In Poland and Italy, colour cosmetics still drive a significant share of growth. The similarities are equally intriguing: Global favourite brands such as MAC and Clinique are always in demand regardless of the region. What I also find particularly interesting is the universal interest in natural beauty products across all of our European markets.

AB Therefore, natural and organic beauty is still a big trend we should keep an eye on.

PWL Definitely. Consumers are becoming more deliberate in how they purchase. They care about how their products are made and sourced – and so start to take an active interest in understanding ingredients and product formulations, particularly for skincare products. I think this trend is here to stay, including sustainability which will become a broader movement in the beauty industry in the coming years.

AB Any other topics which are important right now?

PWL Body positivity and diversity are both highly relevant topics right now. The shift toward embracing and celebrating all forms of beauty is largely a consumer-driven, social movement. Customers want to see themselves represented and brands are starting to respond to this in the way they think about topics as diverse as media casting through to the breadth of shades they make available for a product range. At Zalando, we wove this theme into our recent global beauty awareness campaign, which encouraged our customers to “unleash their beauty” – liberated from social conventions and expectations – while celebrating the fun in getting ready. Our cast also reflected a very modern and diverse beauty aesthetic, which is consistent with our values.


Come celebrate with us the beauty of the LGBTQI+ Community at the “Zalando Beauty x Berlin Pride” event hosted by Interview:

July 27, 11am – 8pm at Zalando Beauty Station Weinmeisterstrasse 2, 10178 Berlin. Find the offical Facebook event here.


Produkt-Fotografie BERNARDO MARTINS