When Amazon announced the launch of its largest trend-driven fashion label, Find, on Monday, it came with a significant caveat: It will only be available in Europe.
What’s more, the company is taking a very different promotional approach to Find than it has with its U.S.-based labels including Lark & Ro. It will roll out a multinational advertising campaign in the U.K., France, Spain and Germany, involving billboards and social media ads — creating a level of noise we have yet to see stateside for the juggernaut’s private-label clothing.
“It makes sense to launch the line in a market that is not as highly competitive and critical as the U.S. market [which is responsible for two-thirds of Amazon’s sales],” said Jim Fosina, CEO of Fosina Marketing Group. “That way, if there is a misstep, it won’t damage the overall brand equity of the line and of Amazon.”
Although Europe has a larger population, it still trails the U.S. in total e-commerce market share. To wit, the U.S. accounted for 14 percent of that market in 2016, while all European countries combined accounted for only 8 percent during the same period.
However, the intensive marketing plan implies that launching in Europe is not simply about hiding the line’s potential failure, said a few industry experts.
“Amazon’s strategy across every category it enters is to first meet people where they are today and then bring them where Amazon is headed. From books to Kindles, from Bluetooth speakers to Amazon Echo, the brand knows how to anchor itself in the known to bring in the new,” said Leila Belmahi, a consultant for brand-strategy firm Vivaldi. And Europe, of course, is fashion’s central hub. “It is only fitting for Amazon to publicly launch this fashion-forward line where fashion began,” she said.
The homepage for Amazon’s new label Find
The Find line (which is made up of 500 pieces) seems to emulate trend-driven brands like Zara, H&M and Topshop, selling items like patent leather boots ($67) and checked blazers ($48). All of those brands began exclusively in Europe before coming to the U.S. due to their popularity with American consumers.
“Amazon is likely taking this same approach, establishing Find in the European image and associating the line with all of the class and style that U.S. consumers — especially the very fashion-minded younger generations — crave,” said Kelly Jo Sands, the evp of marketing technology at Ansira agency. “To succeed, however, it will have to follow in the footsteps of other fast-fashion brands by taking their advertising and styling cues from the luxury players in Europe,” she said.
And if it does succeed with Find in Europe first, it is likely to see more success when it inevitably brings the brand to the states, added Fosina. “Amazon has the opportunity to woo the European market and create a level of buzz needed to launch more effectively here,” he said.
“It will appear exclusive and more desirable in the minds of American consumers,” agreed Sands.
Amazon has yet to experience that level of success with any of its 13 other private labels, however, struggling most with lines that have a trendier bent.
As recent research from L2 has found, Amazon’s most successful fashion brand to date is Amazon Essentials, a men’s and women’s basics line composed of T-shirts and polos. It was responsible for 59 of the items on Amazon’s monthly U.S. Best Sellers list for men’s clothing this July. Lark & Ro, which is Amazon’s most comparable brand to Find, appeared only four times on Amazon’s U.S. Best Sellers list for women’s clothing in that same month. “While Amazon has marketed some of its private-label brands as being contemporary and fashionable, the reality is that it is far more successful in price-driven categories such as basics,” said Cooper Smith, L2’s head of Amazon research.
However, he believes it has a shot at changing that perception with Find. Although more fashion brands sell on Amazon today than ever before, their respective selections tend to be limited, and there’s still a huge void of fashion-forward offerings. Hot-ticket brands like Tory Burch and Rag & Bone, for example, still haven’t partnered with the site in the U.S. or Europe. “Rather than waiting for those brands to come around or leaving those opportunities to third-party sellers, Amazon is [aiming to] fill the white space itself,” said Smith.
On top of that, it’s trying to compete with German e-commerce giant Zalando, Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer that sells clothing and shoes by the likes of Versace and Adidas. Rubin Ritter, the company’s CEO, has been outspoken about Amazon’s encroachment on its territory, telling the Financial Times in May that the American company is “trying to steal everybody’s lunch.”
That may be true, but Amazon has its work cut out for it, said NewStore founder Stephan Schambach: “Amazon doesn’t have great relationships with brands in Europe, but Zalando does.” A really successful private label — not yet one of Zalando’s strong suits — could help make up for that.