Hi there, we noticed this article from 2014 is still one of our most popular posts! So we decided to update it here with current stats on the 5 things making Zara and H&M successful and here, with a look at their marketing strategies.
With a brand value of 13 billion euros, H&M is currently the highest valued fashion brand in Europe. Close on its heels is the equally ambitious Zara, valued at 7.8 billion euros. Both retailers have global vision and excel with their affordable fast fashion offering, but the shopping experience and product is greatly different. We’ve turned to data to understand what sets the two apart and here we’ll share the key findings relating to price, product and timing.
Segmentation of offering at Zara vs H&M
H&M and Zara have very different strategies when it comes to the weighting of their offering. The bulk of H&M’s offering is womenswear and this focus is communicated in their advertising. Menswear at H&M takes a backseat. Zara’s apparel split is much more even – considering the retailer gets so much coverage for its womenswear offering, the breakdown is in fact very balanced.
These weightings suggest that Zara and H&M are competing for and pitching at different consumer types. The Zara customer could be more mature, and shop across the breadth of the retailer’s offering for his or her partner and children, while H&M’s predominant consumer is shopping for womenswear. Strategically, Zara splits its focus across all three channels. A sign of confidence and clarity? Or perhaps an overly broad vision?
Dramatically Different Pricing Strategies
H&M have the bigger online offering, with currently around two thousand more options than Zara. The pricing strategy at the two retailers varies dramatically, despite having similar entry and exit points. H&M’s apparel pricing spans $1-$291 and Zara’s is $5-$322, however average price point at H&M is $21.40 and at Zara is $48. Even more telling is the the price point which each invests in most heavily. At H&M 56% of the offering sits in the $1-$20 bracket, whereas Zara gives its price architecture a more even ratio – their most optioned price point is $20-$40 and represents a more modest 32% of their offering.
The differential pricing structures are very visible when comparing two of the most competitive categories: womenswear tops and dresses. H&M’s most optioned price bracket in tops is $20-$30, whereas Zara’s is $40-50. The two have clearly defined places in the market for this category – their consumers’ expectations will be tried and tested and their point of difference clearly honed through product type, quality and detailing. The structuring around dress price points is less clear from both. H&M give equal weighting to products priced $20-30 and $40-50, and ease off on the $30-40 bracket. Zara have an equally unbalanced spread of product through their price points: $40-50 is their most optioned (and being one of H&M’s most common price points for dresses, doesn’t define their point of difference as clearly as the tops category), they ease off on the $50-$60 bracket, and come back in again for $60-$70. Both retailers may want to assess these bumps in their assortment – it’s far easier to encourage a consumer to up their spend if pricing runs on a smoother scale.
H&M’s Bullish Discounting
Discounting strategy is one of the most defining differences at the two retailers. H&M currently have 24.2% of their entire online offering on discount, with 9.3% discounted by 50% or more. Zara, in stark contrast have only 3.2% of their online offering discounted – a much subtler approach, and only 0.2% of the offering discounted by 50% or more.
Womenswear is the Most Replenished Segment
Replenishment strategy is another area of marked difference between the two retailers. 23.1% of H&M’s current range has been replenished, whereas only 2.8% of Zara’s has seen replenishment. At both, womenswear is the most replenished segment. This translates on a product level: the oldest item of fully-priced apparel/accessories or footwear (so therefore showing replenishment without discounting, demonstrating consistent buying) at Zara arrived in November 2013. Compare that to the item that has been in stock online at H&M, full-priced for the longest: it arrived in May 2011. And it’s not just in comparison to H&M that Zara’s replenishment sticks out like a sore thumb: Topshop’s ‘longest serving’ product was first seen in January 2011 and ASOS’s June 2010.
The replenishment chart above right shows a high level (and pleasingly consistent frequency) of new product drops at Zara. Zara ensure their low rate of discounting by not having high rates of replenishment. The speed at which they operate and at which their product sells out (an average of 41 days to first sell out at Zara, compared to 153 days at H&M) means they don’t slow their processes up with restocking. This approach can only be taken if design and buying teams are working very harmoniously as there are many risks associated. For Zara however, this is a winning formula.
Communications: Celebrities or Fashion Insiders?
Lastly, the way each retailer communicates their brand is very different. While H&M collaborate with designers and celebrities to create product, Zara simply gets fashion insiders to endorse their products. Take their latest Pictures campaign which currently features Taylor Tomasi Hill and previously, Yasmin Sewell – both respected fashion consultants with industry kudos – in a style blog format, wearing Zara garments in their own ways. Again, it’s a softer approach than H&M’s much-marketed collabs and one that would appeal more to a consumer interested in personal style and unique finds than consumers driven by hype and must-have items.
This elegantly understated approach from Zara is reiterated in their email newsletters, which include minimal wording and strike an equal balance between their women’s, men’s and kid’s collections. When there are sales, they are never communicated with splashy red campaigns, instead Zara opts for a less abrasive look – true too of their light involvement on social media. H&M’s newsletters focus predominantly on womenswear and they aren’t shy of the overtly sale-y red banners associated with slashed prices.
In summary: Zara take an elegant route, creating catwalk-inspired product for the whole family. They have high product turnover and low discounting which is reflected by their brand communications very well. H&M are more bullish in their discounting but have sophisticated replenishment strategies. Their positioning in the market aligns them with the Gen Y consumer who is driven by hype and low price. Happily, retaining these differences will allow both retailers to continue on their ambitious paths.
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In our Resources, we’ve published an exclusive 22-page report exposing H&M’s retail strategy as they expand into Australia. H&M have recently opened their first store in Melbourne and their price points threaten the local retailers. To learn about the risks and opportunities as well as about the fundamentals of their retail success, download your free report here.
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