skip to Main Content
Online Fashion Market

Translation helps Zalando dominate the European online fashion market

Fashion e-commerce is clearly very fashionable: Europeans spent over £30 billion on clothes online in 2015, making it the biggest product category for internet purchases. Fashion increasingly relies on export for growth and it is one of the most important cross-border e-commerce sectors in Europe; so it is little wonder that so much of its success depends on effective localisation.
Two big success stories are pure e-commerce fashion players ASOS and Zalando.


Launched in 2000, UK-based ASOS started its international journey in 2010 by creating local-language websites for France and Germany. Less than two years later, ASOS’s European sales increased by 150% and its internet visibility in those two countries received a major boost.

By 2013 ASOS added Italian, Spanish, Russian and Chinese to its multilingual offering. With more than half of its revenue coming from outside the UK, and with over six million active international customers, ASOS’s investment in translation clearly paid off.

Zalando: more languages for higher growth

Berlin-born Zalando, although entering the e-commerce stage eight years after ASOS, has managed to outcompete its rival. In 2015 Zalando had 68% more active customers than ASOS, 50% more internet visits, 87% more orders, and twice as much revenue. Its effective localisation strategy, including translation in ten different languages, has been crucial to Zalando becoming one of Europe’s top ten online retailers, and one of the continent’s fastest growing companies.

Translation helped Zalando’s internet visibility

Unlike its main competitor, Zalando launched local-language websites in the Nordics and Benelux, and gained higher internet visibility.

  • Zalando ranks 300 positions higher than ASOS in the Netherlands and Sweden;
  • It is the third biggest internet retailer in Denmark;
  • It is one of only two foreign internet retailers in the Dutch top-ten.

Return-on-investment for translation

With an excellent internet infrastructure and high incomes, the Benelux and Nordic countries have online fashion markets of £2.7 billion total, of which only £0.54 billion can be accessed via an English-language website.

A relatively modest investment in translation allowed Zalando to capture this market: every pound they spent on translation returned at least another five pounds in revenue. Zalando’s successful localisation does not depend only on translation; this ROI figure of 500% accounts for investments in free delivery, in-country marketing and localised payment methods.

Online customers prefer their own language

It should come as no surprise that Zalando’s localisation in more languages than its rival is a component of its success.
A user language preference online survey finds that, given a choice, 90% of Europeans would rather visit a website in their own language. Furthermore, only one in five regularly use another language to shop online. Even countries with high levels of foreign-language proficiency prefer their mother tongue: 45% of Dutch and 39% of Swedes never shop in another language. This highlights the importance of translation in reaching and engaging the online audience.

Localise to stay competitive

The European fashion market is a high-growth and lucrative one, with spend per capita on fashion being higher than in most industry sectors. However, low barrier to entry and Europe’s cultural diversity have lead to a highly competitive and fragmented market. Effective translation allows fashion e-commerce companies to fully capture this opportunity.

*Photo credits: gpointstudio /

Eris Duro

Eris Duro is doing a placement with Lingo24 as part of the Saltire Fellowship business programme. He has previously worked as a molecular biologist in Scotland, as well as a translator for national TV in his native Albania. Follow Eris Duro on LinkedIn.

Back To Top