While financial challenges following the lockdown orders have forced many small and medium-sized-businesses to shut shop, there are others who are reinventing the traditional ways of retailing to attract consumers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in the way customers shop. They are still wary of stepping out and shopping and so, retailers are investing heavily in technology to take the stores to the consumers. In such a situation, technology has proven to be a boon for retailers.
We bring you case studies of fashion retailers and brands who have blended technology seamlessly into their existing systems to come up with a safe and innovative formula to increase footfalls and sales.
Virtual Store Tour – Pazzion
With the pandemic hitting, retail all over the world has been rushing to bring in new technology to aid consumers and sales and Pazzion is no different. The brand made its debut in India through a virtual launch. Moreover, it unveiled the collection to everyone on the launch virtually, and that’s when the virtual store tour began for the brand.
“We usually get virtual walk requests from our customers who love to shop but still aren’t too comfortable stepping out that often. We try to connect with them via a Zoom or WhatsApp video call and offer a tour as they shortlist their favourites from the other side of the screen, the one-on-one interaction intrigues the customers and helps the store gain its due traction. Post the virtual tours, whatever the customers shortlist is delivered to them to try from the comfort of their homes and thus making their places equivalent to trial rooms, helping them select what suits and fits them the best,” says Manisha Malik, Master Franchisee and India Head, Pazzion.
“We have also created an e-catalogue and have been getting few requests from customers who already knew this brand from before and are sure about the product and the size and hence they ask for pictures and home delivery,” she further adds.
Pros and Cons – Virtual store tours cover a lot more and make the entire experience time-efficient as an executive is guiding consumers through the store personally while resolving their queries and aiding them to look through the entire collection. It cuts down the hassle and the risk of stepping outside, especially in times like these. Even though DLF Avenue Mall has been very strict about the safety and hygiene maintained at the mall, there are still many people who aren’t okay about the idea of visiting a store and that’s where the virtual tours come into the picture. These tours are not just safe but also enable customers to take a look through the store from the comfort of their homes and at their convenience.
“On the other hand, cons I feel would change as soon as there’s some relief around the pandemic but right now the whole fact of not being able to touch and feel or check out our footwear made with genuine leather in person is somewhat of a drawback. But every problem comes with a solution and hence we resolve that issue with our try-at-home service- so that works well too,” Malik says.
Future – The new normal revolves around minimising the spread of the virus and yet living and going through our routines, which also includes shopping (retail) to be a significant part of it.
“To establish a new normal, we needed to resort to ways which can help us carry on with our pre-pandemic practices but with caution. And virtual store tours enable that for us. They encourage people to shop from their homes after screening through the entire store and collection virtually. They further aid them in selecting the right pick with the executives assisting them on video calls and later with the home-cum-trial room service offered by various labels; thus making virtual store tours imperative in instilling the new normal,” Malik states.
Virtual Showroom – IMG Reliance
A cutting-edge digital platform and a first of its kind concept in India to support the business of fashion, the Virtual Showroom is purpose-built at Lakmé Fashion Week by IMG Reliance to transform the otherwise offline procedure into a completely digital one, allowing fashion buyers to be exposed to all participating designers and their collections on a fast and fluid platform that is responsive and mobile friendly.
“The Virtual Showroom is a marketplace platform for buyers to browse through the latest collections, place B2B orders from multiple designers in one shot, wish-list products and complete orders at another time, all while sitting in the comfort of their homes. All showcasing designers provided an extremely descriptive and interactive line sheet with details such as product sizes available, colour, description along with high-quality images of the products, providing a buyer with all the information required to place an order,” explains Jaspreet Chandok, Head – Lifestyle Businesses, IMG Reliance.
Pros and Cons – Moving forward, innovations such as The Virtual Showroom are going to find more relevance in the future of fashion. Hence, keeping aside the fact that many buyers prefer the offline shopping experience and that there is still scope for awareness to be created towards the Virtual Showroom, this platform only goes on to aid the business of fashion and has only upsides to it. Owing to its virtual format, it can attract international buyers and hence, the Showroom has been created to be compatible with multiple currencies such as INR, USD, GBP and Euro as well. The Showroom is also linked to the Lakmé Fashion Week Hub, enabling a buyer to seamlessly go from watching a show, to placing an order.
“Buyers with a team of merchandisers can share wish lists between the members who have access to the showroom. Given that face to face interaction is not possible in the current scenario, along with the designer contacts being available for buyers to get in touch, they also have an option now to place a direct video call request with the designers from the on-board calendar available. It is instant, it is here, and it is the future,” says Chandok.
While introducing a feature and a platform at this scale for the first time, there are investments that goes into it. However, Virtual Showrooms come with a merit of being a one-time cost and much lesser when compared to on-ground showrooms. While being virtual, there are no space constraints and hence the showroom can house various designers as well as cater to buyers from across borders – regulars and new ones alike.
Future – Technology has opened several avenues in the world of fashion, but we doubt it can completely replace the experience of a physical show. The audience loves to engage in the runway experience, and we will hopefully see more phygital showcases once things start getting back to normal. However, even when we return to a physical event, all these elements become companion actions adding to the overall product offering to consumers.
“We see this season as a pilot and we are happy to get feedback from all stakeholders and continue the development of all these digital initiatives,” concludes Chandok.