During last week’s a4uexpo Europe in Amsterdam one of the top day two sessions; ‘Fashioning Success – Becoming Successful with Fashion in Performance Marketing’, featured insights from Chris Bishop of 7thingsmedia, Roberta Francesconi from Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Joost Nauta from Fashiolista, and Catharina Zientz from Fashionchick.de.

Florent Coudyser of zanox, acted as moderator and the panel, of fashion publishers, bloggers, brands and a fashion-centric agency, seemed to enjoy getting stuck into issues within one of the fastest growing vertical sectors within affiliate marketing – fashion.

Following the session, PerformanceIN caught up with Catharina Zientz; marketing manager at Fashionchick.de – the online German platform for womens’ fashion, accessories beauty. We got her thoughts on the event, performance marketing, incentivising customers and more.

Amsterdam-based Zientz, said traditionally performance marketing within the fashion space has been underdeveloped. However, she stressed that this has changed over the last couple of years and fashion is now flourishing – due to the changing perception and prevalence of successful performance marketing options.

Q: What does performance marketing (PM) mean to you and how is it utilised at Fashionchick.de?

CZ: The performance marketing activities on Fashionchick are mainly based on product feeds. We want to inspire women to click and buy fashion online and provide them with a happy and easy shopping experience.

Fashionchick brings together fashion and beauty products for women from a variety of online shops and presents them to the user in a clear manner. Products are listed based on an algorithm with focus on popularity. The user can then find inspiration browsing through the wide range of products or use our advanced filters to search for a specific item. When the user finds something she likes, she can move onto the store with one click to purchase the product.

In addition users find advice, information about trends and online-shopping in the Fashion News; our blog. Here Fashionchick utilises the product data of the shops and combines them with interesting content for our readers. We would for example zoom in on a catwalk trend and then find ready-to-shop products from our affiliated stores for the Fashionchick user.

Q: How do you become successful within fashion in performance marketing?

CZ: Finding a good mix is very important. As we all know taste and style differs and as a fashion publisher it is crucial to find the right balance between designer and affordable clothing, between very trendy and mainstream, new products and popular products as well as niche and variety. For us it is vital to work with the best performing online shops and maintain a good relationship with them. For a successful cooperation the quality of data is essential as we need merchants to create product feeds containing all available data.

Q: Since launching the German site in 2011, how has your outlook on the performance marketing industry changed?

CZ: We notice some upcoming challenges related to changes in consumer behaviour, for example purchases on different devices, legislation especially with regards to cookies or other tracking issues. Retargeting parties or cashback overwriting affiliate sales in the last part of the customer journey made us focus more on CPC deals instead of CPS. All in all I do however still see the industry growing every day. New publisher models come up all the time and there are still big players and brands, which only recently launched their affiliate programs.

Q: The site has 300,000 unique visitors per month and 30% of your website visitors return to your site. What are your top tips for getting customers to return to the site? How do you incentivise them and why is this important?

CZ: For me as a relatively new website, the returning visitors are very important to build up my brand. A regular user is more likely to tell their friends about the website and a growing number of returning visitors confirms our concept. When a user comes back, she enjoyed her visit to our website and had a happy shopping experience. Therefore, I think that the user experience on the website is key to getting a visitor to return. We are constantly working on improving usability as well as the overview of products on the website and coming up with new ideas to make the shopping even easier and more fun.

Another factor that helps us is the regularly updated blog. Our visitors have a point of coming back, as they find updated content, great vouchers or competitions as well as new products on the website when they visit again. We also build a (small) community, in which users can create a profile to save favourite items to their virtual cupboard. That way she can come back at a later point to shop for them.

Q: Since the first site in the Netherlands in 2008; Fashionchick.nl (520,000 uniques), Fashionchick has launched in Germany, France (120k uniques) the UK (200k uniques) and America (200k uniques). Is the company eyeing any other global markets and what future plans do you have for the Fashionchick.de site?

CZ: For Germany and the Netherlands we are currently working on Mentoday, a concept based on the Fashionchick idea, but targeting men and a similar concept for kids fashion in the Netherlands is in the pipeline.

During our expansion into the American and several European countries we could confirm that the markets welcomed the Fashionchick concept. Internet users picked it up quickly and the feedback from shops, agencies and affiliate networks was very positive. That’s why we plan to export Fashionchick to new markets in 2014 and 2015 including some emerging markets. For Fashionchick.de I am specifically focussing on market penetration aiming to become the number one website for buying women’s fashion online in Germany.

Q: What were your thoughts on the a4uexpo Europe?

CZ: It was great to be a part of the panel at a4uexpo Europe. The fact that this event was in Amsterdam made it so relevant for us and it was great to get a chance to meet with people face-to-face.

After the panel session I had a lot of people coming up to talk to me – one of which was from Japan and is looking to move into the German market. The meet the agency feature was also a good idea and I would say that events like this are good for networking.”