The India Fashion Forum’s virtual roundtable, ‘Digital Customer Experience For Future-Fit Fashion Retail’ powered by Istituto Marangoni highlighted the role of technology in transforming consumer experience and reshaping value-premium fashion retail for the new normal.
Topics of discussion ranged from touch-less retail to voice based shopping experiences, sensor data, facial recognition and next generation digital innovations based on AR, VR, AI, IoT, Data Analytics.
Moderated by Jacqueline P. Mundkur, Senior CX Thought Leader and Practitioner, the panel consisted of the following luminaries from the fashion retail industry:
– Amit Chaudhary, Co-Founder, Lenskart
– Barbara Nigro, Creative Brand Consultant, Mentor, Tutor – Instituto Marangoni London
– Debosmita Majumder, Associate Director and Head of Marketing, Puma Group
– Krishnan Venkateswaran, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Titan Company
– Ranjan Sharma, CIO, Head of SCM, Captive eCommerce Business and QA, Bestseller
Even though the lockdown has been relaxed, the scare of the contagion is still prevalent, which in turn is affecting footfalls. Moreover, a tendency of cutting down expenses to the bare basics has been apparent in fashion consumers. With the festival season in India approaching, brands and retailers across the fashion retail segment are now compelled to come up with extremely creative and appealing initiatives to lure consumers.
For Bestseller, about 85 percent of the company’s revenue pre-COVID is generated from offline stores. This translates to the fact that a sizeable base of consumers still prefer to buy offline. “This section of consumers comes to our stores more for the shopping experience than just consumption. E-commerce has still not been able to take the experience to a similar level, more so because our is more of an assisted selling model with consultants that help consumers out with what to buy. While we have a robust Omnichannel infrastructure, we still are figuring out how to take this experience to our online channel,” stated Ranjan Sharma, CIO, Head of SCM, Captive eCommerce Business and QA, Bestseller.
Bestseller is now trying to bring in social commerce to bridge the gap between the consumer at home and the store staff in a bid to bring its digital shopping experience at par with offline experience.
Lenskart is also using social commerce to make transactions as seamless as possible between its online and offline channels. “Even our staff was quick to pick up the new way. They are now extensively using social commerce to serve our customers. E.g., they guide customers with their needs and walk them through the transaction in a WhatsApp video call. But then, this was possible only because we enabled all the requisite technology at the ground level and I think this is an investment for the future because this trend is not going to go away post the pandemic,” says Amit Chaudhary, Co-Founder, Lenskart.
While touch and feel was an inherent part of purchases at Titan, the brand has witnessed that the trust of the brand has hugely been instrumental in purchase decisions in COVID times. “Our store staff are extensively using video to demonstrate our jewellery to consumers. The situation has brought forth hitherto unknown capabilities just like it has triggered different consumption behaviour. We have made the national inventory visible to all our stores and shortly we are going to introduce joint video calling capabilities as well. We have also enabled image search along with various other new age technologies like AI and ML. We also are harnessing the power of social commerce like never before,” adds Krishnan Venkateswaran, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Titan Company.
The onset of the pandemic has completely transformed things and staying fit and active has never been this important. Infact, fitness has become both more of a concern and more of a necessity. “We registered a huge spike the tendency to stay fit in most of our consumers across age. In line with this we curated a line for home fitness. Another trend that has really caught on is comfort wear like lounge wear. We also curated a line that catered to this need, comfortable clothes that are presentable enough for consumers to attend meetings or virtual gatherings,” adds Debosmita Majumder, Associate Director and Head of Marketing, Puma Group.
She further adds that although the fear of the contagion still exists, a sizable Puma consumers have demonstrated their desire to go out and shop for the entire experience of it. “And that is where we focused when our stores were re-opened. We have ensured that all safety measures are in place right from social distancing to ensuring safety and hygiene in trial rooms, etc. We also utilized the data we have hereto collected from both our offline and online channels to communicate to the consumer about our safety guarantee,” she says.
Titan’s loyalty base is expected to clock 20 million consumers by the end of 2020. “It’s a question of identifying the right segments and the user’s life-cycle journey as well as his life state journey. We ran a data enrichment program recently where we have been successful in enriching data of about 3 million consumers. This has helped us to cross sale our other products immensely. We are aiming to be relevant and timely and not over communicate to the consumer and this is where data and analytics are play a huge role,” says Krishnan Venkateswaran.
When the nationwide lockdown was announced, most brands knew that they had to leverage technology to carry on. “For Lenskart, we were able to bring in all our staff on cloud telephony with just 48 hours of the lockdown and we made sure that all of our 1 crore consumers are reached out. We were checking on every one of our consumer, enquiring about their safety and ensuring them that we are available to serve. This proved to be a big brand building, way beyond ATL or BTL. And this was all possible because of technology,” says Amit Chaudhary.
Lenskart has also banked on AR to launch a virtual try on feature in stores. This has helped them ensure a unified customer experience across both their channels.
After the onset of the pandemic, the whole temple of fashion content has been overhauled. Production budgets have shrunk, and large shoots have become an uphill task. “What we are doing is shoot Instagram videos and rely on filters. This has made the content very contextual, casual, and more relatable. What the pandemic has taught us is producing interesting content without relying on large production. We are also constantly trying to repurpose our old content. So, going ahead, I feel that the level of investment in producing content will go down, showcasing what the reality is will be pivotal and using social content will be the norm,” says Debosmita Majumder.
Post the pandemic, smaller town and cities have registered promising performance. “In fact, if you look at the last EORS results for Myntra, the major sales came from the smaller towns and cities. There is a major shift that is underway to be honest and everyone today is focusing on these locations. The entire mentality has been overhauled by the pandemic and the lockdown — they are highly comfortable consuming fashion online now,” says Ranjan Sharma.
Visual Merchandising is also slated to enjoy significant changes post the pandemic. “I think there would be a lot of work to be done in re-purposing the current retail space to be able to accommodate lot of different permutations brought in by the pandemic — sanitizing stations, click and collect stations, etc. The physical space where clothes will be displayed will be lesser than what I have experienced throughout my career. It’s a great opportunity, in a way, to display apparel in a clearer and more effective space. Our sales advisors will have to be around more and integrate that new customer journey with their expertise and one to one consultation. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of training our sales advisors on product knowledge,” concludes Barbara Nigro, Creative Brand Consultant, Mentor, Tutor – Instituto Marangoni London.