Future of brick and mortar
Store operating systems need to be very hygienic and this is a crucial step that brands need to take in order to ensure that apparel trials are carried out in a very checked environment. Introducing queues and having only 8 to 10 people in the store at a time can also be a good idea to reduce unnecessary crowding in order to maintain social distancing. Training the staff and making them wear masks and gloves throughout the day will help prevent unnecessary panic in the minds of consumers arising due to the 'touch scare'. So, initially, the 8 to 9 months will be very crucial and stressful. But once reforms are brought in and everyone starts to operate within a system, it is bound to get easier to strike a chord with the consumer.
Will brands still invest in marketing campaigns?
Marketing tools or mediums will become more affordable in the time to come. So, if as a brand you have a good story, a good line, or merchandise that you know deserve to be marketed, then it is always better to market the line and not stop on budgets. Having said that 80 to 90 percent of brands will definitely curb their marketing budgets in the post-pandemic world.
Cash preservation is a necessity
It is the right time to hold on to the capital and only invest in the necessity. Slow and steadily grabbing back the market is the strategy to adapt and whatever little a brand decides to spend, a portion of the same needs to be used to invest in technology.
Technology adaptation has to be fast-forwarded
This is the time to say yes to technology in whatever ways it suits your brand and it will help you become more agile and prepared. Not only that, now the focus should be on omnichannel and the faster a brand builds on their omnichannel presence the easier it will be for them to grab customers on varied touchpoints and this will ensure cash flow too.
Product lifecycle management and the challenges ahead
Given the scenario at hand, we can't think conventional and now is actually the time to fuse 2 seasons in one. We can't afford to have a 9-month collection cycle, rather we have to make it a 3-month cycle and that's how we can bring back periodicity into the way we function and build up the product lifecycle once again.
Online is here to stay
Abhinav Deepankar, Vice President - Head of Sales, FieldFresh Foods Pvt. Ltd. explained that the online revolution was already in full swing, brands were looking for ways to get closer to their audience through clicks. However, with the pandemic, the journey has been cut short and made quicker. Now the shift will be faster. On the other hand, Abhishek Shetty, CMO & Ecommerce Head, Celio mentioned that for his brand the focus has always been on the younger audience, who are online bound. What is interesting is that even though the idea of marketing is now focused on essentials, people are still ordering from Celio and the brand looks to fulfill them at the right time.
Essentials is the call of the day
Arpan Biswas, VP - Marketing, Housejoy highlighted how the brand has just started the HousejoyMart to offer people a chance to shop for groceries and essentials. Being an ‘on-demand’ service provider, reaching out to people at their homes has always been the brand’s forte and now with Mart, they wish to deepen the connection.
Post the pandemic, the revision of marketing budgets
Sarika Grover, Co-Founder, Green Giraffes Consulting hinted at how marketing budgets will get revised in the time to come. She mentioned that the idea of video will be on the rise and more and more brands will have and will want to do videos to market their products and services. Videos being cost-effective and easier to grab attention. In a similar vein, Jasmeet Thind, Co-Founder, Coutloot mentioned that the idea of push marketing will decline and the pull will become more prominent and obvious now, and in order to make this a reality they are working to do seller videos now on their portal, which the sellers can use to advertise their products. Coutloot is also bringing in ‘live bargaining’ too to increase the buzz.
Making work from home the #NewNormal
Akshay Ambardar, Associate Director - Marketing, Myntra spoke extensively about the idea of working from home. He highlighted how little things that he or his team has started to notice on their home front is all thanks to the #NewNormal. Taking a leap from this he also mentioned that just like him, his customers too are adapting to a new ‘home life’ and the new trends and changes that come with it. Keeping this in mind the marketing for a brand whether e-commerce or otherwise should be focused on nuances that are relatable and fits the bill in this case.
Anil Menon, General Manager, Information Technology, Tata Starbucks in the context of cash preservation highlighted the need to restructure the technology requirements in the business. He hinted at meaningful collaborations and how that will be the call of the day in the post-COVID world. Following in like, Ranjan Sharma, CIO & Head of Supply Chain, Bestseller mentioned that it is time to question the penny spent on technology. Now the need of the hour is to keep afloat, that's why even though investment in technology is a must. but there will be caps and questions in place and only the most profitable technology investment will need to be honoured to preserve cash.
Social distancing to favour niche technology
Kunal Mehta, CIO, Raymonds mentioned that technologies that allow the customer to choose products without nil to less touch and feel will actually take the centre stage now, given the concerns of hygiene and safety. Stringent SOPs will be in place covering all aspects of hygiene and safety at every brick and mortar store, irrespective of whether they are franchise stores or own stores.
The business of food delivery up for a change
David Zakkam, VP-Analytics, Swiggy highlights that the entire SOP of restaurant operation is going to change in the post-COVID era. Swiggy has introduced the concept of 'safety tag' for restaurants and in order to get their food delivered through Swiggy, the restaurants have to show proofs that they are abiding by the hygiene and sanitisation concerns as per government and medical norms. Masks for the food operators to restaurant staffs, every 4-hr sanitisation at the restaurant, and other measures that the restaurants have adapted now will become a constant in the post-COVID world as well.
Ensuring regular audits for garment delivery
Dipayan Chakraborty, Head Analytics, Myntra highlights that the entire supply chain at Myntra has always abided by hygiene norms and at every level the QC has always been given utmost importance. Taking a leap from there, now the brand is further streamlining the supply chain at various points to make the process more stringent. In an effort to make it totally safe for the consumers, Myntra is thinking of a double-packaging for parcels. This way the product packet will be untouched by the courier or any other person on the way to complete the delivery fulfilment.
Getting closer to the customer
Shifali Singh, SVP Retail, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group started off talking about the changes in the market as a whole and how the retail segment will evolve in the post-pandemic world. She mentioned that growth is going to be muted within the retail universe. New business models that cater to essentials will get closer to the customers. She also highlighted that brands that have been traditionally operating within a particular non-essential category will now choose essentials to diversify and reach out to a larger audience base.
Catering within the essential space
Now taking advantage of the lower rentals, Anirban Chakraborti, E-Business Head (Pharmacy & Lifestyle Products), Wellness Forever Medicare Private Limited mentioned that they are further strengthening their omnichannel presence. The brand has been on this track for years now and they do not discriminate between customers irrespective of whether they reach them online or at the offline touchpoint. But now, more focus is been given to the omnichannel model wherein the maximum impetus is getting drawn at the e-commerce platform.
Fashion and lifestyle domain will see a shift in purchase
Brajesh Singh Rawat, Ecommerce Head at Marks and Spencer Reliance India Private Limited highlighted that as a brand they are not canceling any orders they have put with their supply chain. Even though the situation is uncertain in terms of the sales that they will be making in the days to come in the post-pandemic world. He highlighted that this supply chain that they have built is not temporary and this will be there in the post-pandemic world, so cutting orders is a question of integrity that the brand values. Moving on he also mentioned that the purchase for undergarments, kidswear, and other such essential categories within the fashion and lifestyle segment will see maximum impetus in the post-COVID world.
Engaging with a minimum marketing budget
Marketing budgets for all brands have been brought down to bare basics now, however, Harsh Shah, Co-Founder, Fynd mentioned that he has seen a good rise in innovative marketing practices, currently given the restrictive operations. Retailers are using this time to gain trust with their customers. A lot of gamification is happening too. Brands within the fashion and lifestyle domain are helping customers create their wishlist and pre-book their order at this time, Harsh highlighted.
Bringing that balance
At the consumer level, the fear factor will prevail even in the post-pandemic world. That’s why Shanth Kumar, Digital Head, NAOS mentions that e-commerce will thrive in the days to come and thus every brand should increase their e-commerce presence independently or through aggregators and other channels. The need to balance marketing spends and working capital, he said is upon us, and now is the time to reach out yet keep a strong cash reserve handy.
Revising ways of serving the customer
Anupam Bansal, MD, Liberty Shoes hinted at the fact that post-lockdown with hygiene and government guidelines on social distancing in place, brands like theirs have to think of ways to cut down on crowding at the stores, yet retain customers. In order to do that they are looking at scheduling appointments for customers before they visit the store, planning to localize deliveries, and are strategizing to offer an enhanced experience to each customer marrying the offline and online space.
Changing dimensions of offerings
Inder Dev Singh Musafir, Director, M&B Footwear at this point mentioned that branded footwear and accessories brands have largely always followed the concept of sanitization and hygiene. Maybe now, it gets more stringent. However, the impetus of following hygiene norms falls more on the unbranded sector and they have to mend their policies to become more customer-friendly. He also harped on cross-brand promotions and rewards as customer engagement must-dos in the post-COVID world.
Engaging the customers
Sat Vijayaraghavan, Founder and CEO, CASA. Retail AI enlightened us on the facts of customer engagement and mentioned that brands need to engage and create awareness with their audience as a part of their short-term marketing plans. On the other hand, he also highlighted that as per trends noted through history, the market will grow after the lockdown is over. From a long-term strategic point of view, he mentioned that brands need to drive optimization at the store level and make it a constant. Tech to help sales in reducing manpower and lowering traffic in stores, he further mentioned.
Food delivery will face a big revival
Ritesh Sinha, COO, Biriyani By Kilo mentioned that as per as restaurant business is concerned, the idea of health will be reviewed by a customer with more stringent attention. So, digitally activating the supply chain and taking the support of own delivery mechanisms will become more of a trustworthy option as compared to getting food delivered through third-party channels. Hygiene is key to winning customers post-lockdown and even during the current time, so keeping the QC measures in-house will always help us know that we are abiding by it to a T.
Engaging with a minimum marketing budget
Navin Joshua, Founder/Director, Green Honchos highlighted on the importance of sensible content when it comes to customer experience. He described how bringing the stores to every home through the digital and tech help will help brands gain customer confidence. Omnichannel was already a part and parcel of people’s lives as far as most brands are concerned. However, now it is more important to take the stores to your customer’s home and tech can play a collaborative role with offline and digital to drive navigate this change in the days to come.
Offline retail is here to stay
Kapil Pathare, Director, VIP Clothing Ltd on a positive note mentioned that once the lockdown is lifted, people will go out for retail therapy and they will want to explore the life they have been missing all this while. He added that the technology shift has already happened, but now technology has to come in to become useful for the audience. Brands should bring in technology that the consumer or users find easy to use. It should be pointed and audience-specific.
Personalization of customer-experience is key
Rohin Mittal, Director, Adyogi harped on the fact that when a brand gives back to back good customer experiences then they can make someone their long-term customer. To take the discussion further on, he mentioned that the brands need to pay attention to customers of all age-groups individually and treat them as separate just like how financial institutions are more and more customizing their offering to make the same customer-centric. Customer experiences that are individually mapped to the age or requirement of a customer goes a long way in gaining that customer’s trust. So, that should be the primary attention point at this moment more than anything else.
Aniruddha Banerjee, Executive Committee Member & Vice President - SCM, Head of Supply Chain, Planning & Logistics, Spencer’s Retail assured that on a retail perspective even though hygiene and sanitization is key to operations at present, the backend costs involved to put these measures into place will not get imposed on the consumer. The price is that the consumer’s pay is MRP and there is no way that the backend cost for internal measures will get added to the customer’s bill.
Supply chain measures
Ishu Bansal, Co-Founder, TruckSuvidha answered some queries related to maintaining the stringent protocols of hygiene within the entire supply chain, especially emphasizing on the sanitation and safety measures, they are adapting to keep the truck drivers, trucks, and riders safe. Toll plazas he mentioned are working as sanitization points and in the absence of a smartphone, most vehicles have been enabled with a tracker, which beeps to indicate the zones the driver is entering, thus keeping them within the safety net at all points.
Building the safety net
Vishesh Khurana, Co-Founder at Shiprocket highlighted the need to build a safety net wherein the entire supply chain can work as a relay, passing on information and support to one another. He also highlighted that companies like theirs can work to facilitate help centers wherever they have offices in. This city or statewide support system will further accelerate the supply chain and bring it closer to the safety racket. It is time to create layers of integration wherein each player along with the supply chain can walk towards safety.
Shashank Srivastav, Founder - sushh.com, ex-executive - Lalamove (B2B and Partnerships Lead, Lalamove India) hinted that online players or e-commerce retailers who are into essentials are ready and equipped with inventory or stock to serve the nation, but the inter-state, intra-state, inter-city cohesive movement of goods are still very fragmented. The implementation of policies and measures should be more cohesive and there should be more strengthening of the supply chain to make the process more full proof.