The India Fashion Forum’s webinar, ‘Leveraging the Power of Data in E-Commerce’ explored ways of efficiently turning insights and trends in the current environment to rethink business models and make agile decisions based on advanced analytics.
– Abdullah Abo Mihim, MA – Fashion Business, Instituto Marangoni, London
– Pankaj Singh, Director – National Chain Stores & E-Commerce, Levi Strauss & Co.
– Piyush Chowhan, Group CIO, Lulu Group International, UAE
– Abhishek Sudhakar, Senior Director – Men’s Apparel Sports & Footwear, Myntra
Over the world, the share of e-commerce in the retail pie has been growing by the day. While in the Western world approximately 23-25 percent of fashion retail now happens through e-commerce, China is leading the race with an estimated ~40 percent share. And the trends in this industry are rapidly changing.
Changing E-Commerce Trends
“In India till last year, the figure was around 8-10 percent of the total fashion retail business. The e-commerce business for fashion here is dominated by marketplaces, although brands have now – especially after the pandemic – started concentrating on their individual digital marketing channels. So, what according to you are the trends in the fashion e-commerce space in your respective regions?” Praveen Srikhande asked the panelists.
In the UK, a new e-commerce market is shaping up largely driven by new trends around consumption, experience and personalisation, with technology being at the heart of the entire transformation. “We are already seeing a few big brands experimenting with A-commerce, i.e., e-commerce enabled with Augmented Reality and Automation. We see these brands are not only utilising these technologies in their stores and in experiences but also towards enhancing their relationship with consumers. Also, the offline versus online relationship is growing very strong across the entire fashion retail industry in Europe,” says Abdullah Abo Mihim.
Like in other places in the world, the Middle East has seen a huge surge in e-commerce after the pandemic struck. “About 80-90 percent of our present e-consumers are new consumers. While I am not convinced that this is a permanent change, I would still like to believe that the convenience factor will be something that consumers are likely to not compromise with in the future as well,” says Piyush Chowhan.
The lifestyle segment is slated to undergo massive change post the pandemic. People have been confined to their homes for the last 6 months now and in most Western countries, this is expected to continue till mid-20201. “This change in lifestyle is going to underpin the trends that we expect to see ahead. While acceleration of e-commerce is inevitable, we are still not sure about the changes in consumer perception, behavior, and consumption trends. The only way ahead will be with high dependence on technology,” he adds.
The Indian e-commerce industry has seen a sharp rise after the pandemic hit as well. According to Abhishek Sudhakar, e-commerce was preferred more as a discovery/deal hunting channel than for the convenience factor. “Especially in fashion e-commerce, people came to get better deals. Also, the e-commerce model in India is structured in a way that needs heavy investment in supply chain. So, the supply chain was far ahead of the demand. After the pandemic, it changed – by mid-May we started seeing an upsurge in demand for fashion and a lot it was generated from Tier II and III towns. But while the demand rose, our supply chain was not prepared to deal with the new normal,” he states.
Buying habits have also changed massively since the onset of COVID-19. “Consumer preferences have completely flipped. For example, while the demand for footwear, even casual footwear, has pummeled, flip flops and clogs have seen a renewed demand,” explains Sudhakar.
Technology was already an indispensable part of retail and has become even more important in COVID times. Retailers are now compelled to not only have a sound digital presence but also to be digitally native in both their operational as well as consumer engagement models.
“It is time for the entire industry to be more aggressive in terms of adopting digital first solutions. At the same time, we will also have to create a story that is more around experience and engagement rather than transactions. And that can be possible only when you have rich data,” says Chowhan.
Data is the New Oil
In this age and day, data has become a strategic asset that is critical to retailing success. Data has become so prevalent and accessible that more retail brands than ever are relying on data-driven insights to optimize pricing, streamline operations, and improve customer experience. “At Myntra, we don’t use all the data that we capture. It is the data of ‘window shoppers’ that we are more interested in. Let’s say a consumer that comes to our platform but never buys anything. These are the data points that help us to understand inherent signs of customer shopping behavior,” says Sudhakar.
He also iterates the importance of using offline data to target customers online. “You have the data of all customers walking to your store. It is extremely crucial to tally this consumer data to data from online marketplaces. There are a lot of cross coordination opportunities today and brands and retailers should not miss the chance to exploit them,” he adds.
Singh adds that data from online marketplaces help brands with invaluable insights on what engages consumers more. “There are different sets of consumers and their engagement patterns are starkly different as well. Data from marketplaces helps us immensely with this, while also helping us rework and enhance our content and ante up our digital game. Overall, it has helped us with a single view of the consumer which in turn has helped us make their journey and buying experience much better,” he states.
Over the years, fashion cycles have shrunk and along with it, the points of demand and supply have come closer. “So suddenly we had a massive disruption in the supply chain and smart brands were compelled to adapt to this change quickly and become more digital. This is where data became crucial and opened a new gate of opportunities in terms,” explains Mihim.
Leveraging Social Channels
Social media usage has spiked after the pandemic hit and brands and retailers are finding ways to engage thoughtfully with their followers. “Consumers interaction on digital channels have definitely increased after the lockdown. But it ultimately boils down to how we utilize the abundance of data available to us efficiently. When we merge all the data from online, offline and supply chain — there’s more data than we can handle. Going ahead we will need ways to help us integrate and align these data and processes and create an efficient engagement model,” says Chowhan.
Even the Omnichannel model has significantly changed post the pandemic, evolving from a functional model to a specialised one.
“Omnichannel has been in this industry for a long time and we will keep seeing new versions of it as we go ahead. What I see as the next big leap for Omnichannel is moving from its functional roots to a smart model that can not only aid brands to communicate with consumers both online and offline, but which also has a data driven predictive edge to it. Now we can use Omnichannel to gain information beyond just our respective relationships with our consumers,” details Mihim.
Is Digital the Only Way Out?
Mihim further believes that depending on the nature and model of the business – digital retail could be a tool or a transformation. “If you are at a stage where you think digital can be a driver of your value then obviously it should become a way of life for you. Although, the industry has witnessed sound instances of digital transformation and technology adoption in the recent past, it has also been a bane for many brands at large who are still struggling to utilize it properly. So overall, it all depends on how you see it — just as a tool or a business model to generate revenue,” he concludes.