Since the beginning of the lockdown, every brand and retailer has sat down with their teams to rethink business. Everyone wanted to stay connected with their customer base, yet not push sales. Their voice and appeal have changed. Brands sailed on the trend and forayed into omnichannel existence, started video calling and WhatsApp sales. With customer recall being a top priority, social media content also got a boost.
“COVID-19 has impacted consumer behaviour dramatically in the fashion retail sector. This has necessarily meant that we also had to respond to the changed consumer behaviour as a brand. We understand that safety has become a key concern for shoppers who are stepping out, and we have taken rigorous steps to ensure that all Soch stores are as safe as possible. Soch is a unique brand in the ethnicwear space, as it services both the casual and occasionwear needs of the Indian woman. We have seen our casual line move faster in the last few months, given consumers are spending a lot more time at home and need to be at ease while managing their office work or household chores,” mentions Vinay Chatlani, Co-founder and Executive Director, Soch Apparels.
“We also launched a curated ‘Work For Home Line’, made with breathable fabrics with easy silhouettes, to cater to the demand for outfits that keep the consumer stylish and comfortable at the same time. We are also coming up with a range of safety essentials which can help the consumers navigate the new normal of balancing day-to-day life with protection from the infection,” he adds.
Need of the hour
“Tussah being a homegrown brand from Ahmedabad, we didn’t do e-commerce at all because we felt that textiles and textures could only be understood and colours could only vibe with you when you physically see them. But we have started making our website and are considering selling through other e-commerce platforms whose aesthetics match with ours. Given the lockdown and our concern to keep the team and artisans unharmed, we had to take necessary steps to keep the business running. Consumer needs have taken a steep fall with the changing mindsets; consumers are looking for less expensive products or something small that could give them immediate happiness! Keeping this in mind and both our prêt and couture collections, we realised that we have to offer a price cut or bring more options available within a lower range price tag. This year, I’m sure, even the weddings will be more intimate. With people staying more at home, we have started to use our leftover fabrics to craft home décor products, and in maintaining the social distancing norms, we are sending e-lookbooks to customers and offering them video consultations too,” says Siddhi Shah, Owner, Tussah.
Taru Sethi, Design Lead, Abhishti, underlines that lending a responsive ear to the customer’s requests during the lockdown has proved helpful for the brand.
“They were talking to us during the lockdown and we were taking notes to improve things when we open up. We had systems of JIT already in place, and as soon as the door of the economy opened, we embraced it harder than ever and kept the inventory light and served our customers to the maximum. As a brand, our focus changed from the marketplaces to our own platform. We already had the Spring collection live with cottons in colours and silhouettes perfect for both casual and officewear. Listing this collection as the ‘work from home’ range helped. All our regular cottons and linens had also been moved to the same category.”
She further adds, “We have also been sharing stories through and post the lockdown, informing the customers about the shelf life and survivability of the COVID-19 virus. We have always suggested the customers to quarantine the bag for 24 hours before opening it and have also taken a lenient stand on delays in returns or exchange initiations by the customers. Reduction in prices has enabled us to seem like a much attractive option than before.”
“Much as we believe in the joy of shopping from our stores, which we have worked hard to make as safe as we can, we understand that some consumers do not feel comfortable stepping out of their homes in the current environment. These consumers have multiple options for reaching out to us and picking up exactly what they need. We have ramped up product availability on our online store – sochstore.com, which ships to all parts of the country as well as internationally. We are also present on partner websites like Myntra, Flipkart, Tata Cliq, Amazon, etc., should the consumer choose to buy a Soch outfit from these sites. For consumers who miss the joy of shopping at their favourite store, we have launched the Virtual Shopping option. A consumer can book a convenient slot to browse through the merchandise in our store over a video call. Shortlisted garments are then sent to their homes for trial and billing. Our CRM team is also in touch with our loyal consumers, with whom we share new product launches over mediums like WhatsApp, and the consumers can then choose to buy it either online or offline,” Vinay mentions when talking about the varied ways a customer can shop with the brand in the post-pandemic world.
Kriti Chaudhary, Owner, Sanskritik, sensing growth in online sales, devoted more time to customisation during the lockdown. She operates through a quaint store in a prime location in Delhi, but has a huge follower base on Instagram, from where she started her brand’s journey. Her USP is the combination she offers to her audience. Unlike just selling fabrics or garments, she mixes and matches prints and allows her customers to choose suit pieces, fabrics and dupattas by gauging the end-product potential of the same.
She has been dominating the online space for quite some time now. “I have had orders during the lockdown also, and luckily, I could keep passing the same to my artisans, who could use this break to get the garments ready. By the time we reopened, we had all the pre-booked orders ready to be shipped,” she shares. Consumers are fond of her handmade fabric outfits, especially because of the personalisation she offers to each one, and every piece is unique to the customer to a greater extent. Kriti feels that the only barrier in the path to online sales will be logistics in the months to follow. She mentions that the rising price of logistics is a serious concern and it has just doubled owing to the pandemic. However, owing to the lockdown, almost every day much like a brand practice, she has brought out collection photos and outfit design choices. Being so responsive on social media and being able to offer variety round-the-clock have helped her get closer to the customer even during the pandemic.