When shopping moved to the online space, it was a like a mini-revolution turning around the concept of shopping for passionate shoppers. However, the retail space too has gone from strength to strength and stores have been offering somethin0g new to its patrons regularly. So, keeping the conventional retail relevant in today’s online shopping mania, is all about integrating ‘bricks with clicks’. Shopping online may have changed the way we shop almost completely, yet, perhaps, there’s nothing better than a physical store where you can actually see and feel the wares.
Traditional and online space has not co-existed happily in the past. The old-fashioned ways of conventional stores were a downer for them when e-commerce took off. The online players offered free shipping and lower prices were a big hit with the buyers making online shopping a rage. Even the popular and much-loved labels could not compete with online giants. In time we saw a new trend emerge—a movement toward bricks and mortar by online sellers, referred to as the rise of clicks to bricks. So, though the foresight that e-commerce would have an adverse effect on the traditional stores, e-commerce has entered the traditional retail space now with brick-and-mortar stores in many places. For, the online players have realised that shoppers want to see and touch the products than merely seeing them and getting information about them virtually.
Virtually is reality
So is the case with the lingerie industry in India. Brands that were online earlier have adopted and omni-channel approach and also moved into regular retail. States Mr Karan Behal, CEO and Founder, PrettySecrets, “Since PrettySecrets serves in 19000+ pin codes all across India, through its website prettysecrets.com, we can safely say that online shopping comes with its own advantages. India holds immense growth potential for the lingerie industry online and offline retail, which is evident from the entry of large international brands in the Indian market in the last few years. In addition, growing income levels of Indian women portray their changing lifestyle which has rechristened lingerie from just an undergarment to a fashion clothing item, at least in the urban centres. Online retail of this type of product is a lucrative opportunity for the retailers to look into. Online shopping gives them the advantage to shop from the privacy of their homes. They are able to search for the type of lingerie they may want to buy, and have it discretely delivered to the address of their choice. Even for women, they can use our easily navigable site to find exactly what they are looking for. Plus online retail gives you an opportunity to put out your entire product range. While online shopping gives you reachability even in the remotest of areas, you can cater to customers in the comfort of their homes and it is discreet for who prefer it that way. Online portals run on a steady stream of delivery and logistic bodies, to implement their operations to an efficient level; under two per cent of this segment is online. But in next few years, the total market value is projected to jump to $5 billion, with online sales growing to anywhere between 3-5 per cent.”
Ms Sirisha Tadepalli, Vice President, Marketing, Zivame, states that “The online space in India is a promising one and India being the youngest nation in the world has provided it a much needed push with ever-increasing consumer demands and expectations. Lingerie being the most private category was dealt with in the most public manner. This triggered Zivame to launch India’s first online lingerie portal. We have come a long way since then with now having over five categories and being India’s largest exclusive business of woman’s lingerie retail chain. It not only redefined lingerie as a product to give consumers the widest possible product ranges to choose from but also helped Zivame build a dominant position in lingerie industry to become a fashion forward, high quality brand, which serves multiple needs of modern Indian women. It has redefined the environment in which lingerie gets sold and bought in India.”
Ms Soumya Kant, VP – Clovia says, “Lingerie for the longest time was a staple product with hardly any innovation. Last few years have seen an unprecedented growth in awareness—both from sizing/hygiene as well as fashion perspective. While the overall apparel category is growing at 8-9 per cent CAGR, lingerie is pegged to grow anywhere between 15-22 per cent annually. The currently $4Bn market (and 8Bn by 2020) is still so nascent that the top 10 brands put together are not even addressing 8 per cent of the overall market. Innerwear shopping online is estimated to be growing at 50-65 per cent annually.”
Elaborating on the approach by PrettySecrets, Mr Behal says, “There is a gap in the market that presents opportunity for an online approach to capitalise on strong supply chains, offering depth and breadth of inventory and already established understanding of consumers buying behaviour and demographics Which is what we are trying to bridge at PrettySecrets by creating an omni-channel distribution model, where we are available across varied points of sale, depending on the consumer’s preferred choice of format. We are present across Multi Brand Outlets, chain stores, online channels and our own platforms of web store and exclusive brand stores (EBOs).”
Giving an insight into how their customer base has increased, Ms Tadepalli says, “Over the years we have been increasing our customer base to about 1.2 million now. By partnering with international design houses, we have been capturing consumers’ fancy by launching fresh and innovative styles every month. Building on our premise of high quality fast fashion we strive to build our other categories viz. Activewear, Sleepwear and Shapewear.”
Evolved marketing strategies
While and omni-channel approach seems to be a way ahead, brands have continuously re-worked on their marketing plans to offer the best to their consumers through both the channels. Mr Behal explains, “A brand you cannot make decisions in isolation from your customers. We spend time, effort and money into doing consumers research to understand their needs better, this hasn’t changed at all. But overall, we try and experiment in our marketing approach to bring freshness, so that each time consumer hears of us, they can relate with the brand.”
“Too often, marketers go to agencies for everything from strategy to creative execution. We have been really clear on what our brand stands for and when we launch or re-launch a campaign we ensure that we have that consistent message at every consumer touch point, this helps maintain brand recall in consumer’s mind. Our marketing has always been focussed towards our consumer’s need and requirements, but now more so than ever. Our marketing strategy is simple in those terms; we try to identify and match up to our consumer values. We have in-house digital, social media and design team whose main focus is building capability among the brand teams as well as working with agencies in a partnership. Since our target audience is defined, we have observed that across the brand digital campaigns have the highest cut through in terms of brand and recognition, so our digital and social media marketing team is always running new campaigns to connect with our consumers. At PrettySecrets we believe that it’s about that ability to understand a consumer insight, understand your consumer needs and motivations better than anyone else, and translate that data into insight, into strategy and action. PrettySecrets has always followed a commercial marketing route, we believe in building a brand that is well positioned with the right media channels and will drive top-line growth,” he adds.
Ms Kant mentions that Clovia is fast growing in India, “Clovia is a full stack lingerie brand addressing India’s under-served women’s inner wear and sleepwear market (USD 4.5Bn lingerie market growing at 22 per cent CAGR). We are one of the fastest growing and capital efficient brand stories in India backed by Ivy Cap Ventures, Zurich-based Mountain Partners AG and a group of private investors. We design, manufacture and distribute premium fashion lingerie, innerwear, nightwear and shapewear. Clovia’s exclusive online outlet in India is called www.clovia.com.”
Speaking about how the brand has changed its strategy she adds, “When we started at the core of our brand strategy was educating the customer. This stemmed from the fact that lingerie, and lingerie shopping, in India have always been associated with social awkwardness, and that is the biggest marketing challenge for the brand/category. And, as we evolved our focus was reaching out to the customers through an omni-channel strategy and be present at every customer touchpoint.”
Zivame explores popular social platforms while marketing its products even incorporating some essential elements that would help the buyer choose the right product. “We have noticed that 80 per cent of the consumers wear the wrong size. Most of our efforts have also gone into building the true brand experience in the store with our well tested fitting process and showcasing the fashion forward styles. Our focus has always been on getting consumer to experience our fashion forward products. We use Instagram, which is a more visually exciting medium. This category also needs a fair bit of education with respect to styles, matching with outerwear and sizes. Hence, through our size calculator and the video content, we align Facebook and other social media channels to interact with the consumers on this front,” Ms Tadepalli states.
Online integration with modern retail
Brands are adopting several ways to combine their online presence with modern retail. “As the product-market fit has been a roaring success for us and the feedback and customer response/retention is epic, the focus now is primarily to meet demand and ensure growth on all channels of distribution. We are currently expanding both in the online and the offline space with equal vigour. The fun for a brand is to understand the audience and nuances of each channel and ensure a true moni experience for the customers and the sellers. That’s the key focus for us for the next 5-6 quarters,” explains Ms Kant.
She gives some highlights of Clovia…
- Presence across 25 locations in Delhi NCR
- 6 exclusive stores in NCR and looking to expanding to another 4 in the next 6-months
¡Shop-in-shops in leading MBOs in NCR region
- Started a New Distribution Channel—Clovia Partnership Program. Clovia, under this program invites women around the country to start educating other women about sizing and fits and run their own enterprise by selling Clovia products from the comfort of their home. We have around 100 members on board already.
As for PrettySecrets, Mr Behal stated, “We started selling offline to traders almost 3 + years back and we started with our own standalone stores last year in 2017 April. We have integrated online and offline shopping and operations experience in a market like India. PrettySecrets follows omni-channel retailing model, which is the most evolved channel and helps us provide a seamless experience to customers. With consumers having access to a range of new and innovative technologies, various online resources, and multiple sources of product information they utilize this while shopping and are well-informed. Hence our omni-channel model allows us to deal with these informed consumers by offering them a consistent experience at all platforms.”
He adds that with omni-channel retailing and the brand’s marketing strategies being more efficient and consumer specific, PrettySecrets tries to provide offers determined by consumer purchasing behaviour, its social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programmes, and other data mining techniques. Also, all these offers and services are same through all their platforms, which is an advantage.
Zivame’s easy availability across various channels is its plus point.
Ms Tadepalli explains, “One of the core elements of our brand journey has been ensuring that our labels are now available across different sales channels beyond digital. We have now rapidly expanded to 26 stores and have been expanding at 3-4 stores per month and are already amongst India’s largest EBO network in this category. After the launch of physical stores, our sales from that region have doubled. Most importantly these stores are omni stores where we leverage data and technology- to ensure that the consumer gets a much larger offering to choose from where she is able to do her shopping seamlessly and importantly we stock the stores with the most relevant merchandize. So, while Zivame’s online store provides easy access to great lingerie and apparel variety, the physical stores retains customer’s trust and builds Zivame’s brand stature as India’s largest lingerie marketplace.”
Online and offline complement each other
There’s a boom in online retail, there’s not doubt about that; having said that, with brands integrating the online and offline retail shows that both can co-exist and complement each other quite well.
“In today’s world, the ability to engage with and influence customers throughout their journey is paramount for continued success. Online and offline behaviours of customers feed into each other, affecting their overall customer journey. Econsultancy says that 2 in 5 online searchers decide to purchase after being influenced by an offline channel. Brands today can no longer restrict themselves to a single or limited number of channels as they will miss out on providing their users with a seamless brand experience they deserve and desire, and thereby the opportunity to make a sale,” opines Ms Kant.
Mr Behal mentions, “Since online shopping comes with its own advantages and brick and mortar stores have their own perks. While online shopping gives you reachability even in the remotest of areas, you can cater to customer in the comfort of their homes and it is discreet for who prefer it that way. But brick and mortar stores provide customers an overall experience .The customer service, the ambience of the store create a shopping experience when you are buying something as intimate as lingerie.
Trust in the brand is what builds when both offline and online are combined, feels Ms Tadepalli. She elaborates, “The omni- channel approach helps us present the brand in its full glory where consumers can experience the best fits and the widest range. It is helping us cumulatively get more women to experience the brand within the given regions. The combination of online and offline also adds more trust to the consumers and helps them extend into newer categories also. Multiple data and technology initiatives are being driven internally by the technology and product teams to personalize our digital store, refine merchandise grid, forecast demand, institutionalise the fit code and drive supply chain efficiency. Also, over 9800 sample points have been studied, to define seven breast profiles. Work is being done to ensure all recommendations are accounted for and in-store and on digital platforms leverage this. Proof of concept studies suggest 87 per cent accuracy.
Hence, both the channels are of strategic importance to us to help us keep our focus towards building Zivame as the foremost woman’s brand.”
So, to conclude, we can safely state that though online retail came with a big bang and we thought it was the end of traditional retail, the concept evolved in such a way that today it complements modern retail and most brands integrate it in their marketing strategies.
At present Clovia’s approach is:
- Omni-channel strategy: Seamless integrations between multiple channels of sales – online or offline is a critical part of Clovia’s approach:
- Offline stores: Clovia has stores across 25 locations and will also help the firm enhance its brand positioning.
- Content led online and offline marketing: with visual information led depiction be it product features, right sizing, fits etc. and on the other hand, we have quirky, topical campaigns that talk about about lingerie related topics in a humorous and interesting way to drive across the message without being preachy and encourage engagement. Our campaigns have a quirky sense of humour, the language is funny and simple. This, we believe, helps us to both engage and entertain, while also educating our TG. We share information on selecting appropriate lingerie, as well as extending knowledge on sensitive topics like breast-health, self-examine, hormones and the like.
- Strategic partnerships with websites such as Myntra, which act as an effective customer touch point.