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Published on 18/12/2020 2:26:22 PM | Source: IANS

How technology is keeping apparel business relevant during Covid-19

Posted in Beyond Market Life Style| #Beyond Market #Lifestyle and Fashion #Lifestyle #COVID-19

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Technology and digitisation have been the chief after products of the pandemic with a majority of consumers drifting towards online shopping. The industry has speeded up its digitisation, moved rapidly to Omni channel capability, set up no touch payment methods, whats app ecommerce solutions and adoption of retail centric technology such as virtual reality trial rooms, points out Dhruv Bogra, Country Manager India, Forever New -- , a Melbourne based fashion brand in India.

In an interview with IANSlife, Bogra shares his views on how the industry is strategizing business for a post-pandemic era. He also speaks about brands going digital and the expansion plans of Forever New.

Q: What is the post pandemic consumer behaviour towards premium lifestyle brands?

A: The pandemic has unleashed a blow to the fashion industry and the effect has been so devastating in the initial months that it has pushed business back to 2018 levels. Three main trends have emerged in the wake of the pandemic for Forever New.

Firstly, consumers have massively restricted their spending on non-discretionary products and the fashion industry has been severely impacted. Demand for fashion began to see a revival from October onwards fuelled largely by lockdown fatigue and the onset of the wedding and festival season.

Secondly, the fear of venturing to crowded places, malls and shopping centers has led to a strong preference for shopping online across all categories of brands including premium fashion brands. Our online traffic has increased by 40-50 percent over the last month or so, led largely by users who had never shopped us with us on our Forever New portal.

Thirdly, for us "Shopping From Home" via What's App video calls and through digital look books and home deliveries has become a whole new way of doing business. Our consumers love the assured comfort and safety of our home trial and buy service, with it contributing to 15 percent of our store sales.

While these are the leading trends, 30 percent of our most committed and brand loyal consumers buying and shopping behaviour has not changed and they are the first ones to visit the malls and shop from our new launch collections. This has been enabled by our continuous focus on health and safety within our stores and the measures launched by the malls and our department store partners to maintain the highest standards of safety standards.

Q: What are your post pandemic consumer engagement strategies and innovation for premium brands? What initiatives are you taking to enhance the shopping experience for shoppers?

A: In a world caged by the pandemic, Forever New stepped up its engagement and communication strategy for consumers.

We were one of the pioneers of �Shopping From Home" and enabling selection of products via video chat and personalised styling and delivery at home. More than 15 percent of our business is now enabled through this engagement.

Using Artificial Intelligence tools, we have designed personalised communication for each of our customers who are part of our loyalty program called Forever You. They receive offers, promotions and styling look books based on their past purchase behaviour and preferences.

On the e-commerce front, we have accelerated our transition to Omni Channel capability with our service partner Ace Turtle and we will be live with this capability by next week. We will also be launching Whats App Commerce by January.

We were also one of the first brands to establish the standards and create operating processes for ensuring safety in the stores for our employees and customers. Our communication film educating our prospective customers on safety standards in stores was widely appreciated and emulated by many brands in the fashion industry.

Q: What has been the industry focus and how is apparel technology keeping business relevant during these times?

A: The industry has been focussed on ensuring a seamless experience for the consumer from product selection to purchase and at the same time making it easier to shop. To do this, the industry has speeded up its digitisation, moved rapidly to Omni channel capability, set up no touch payment methods, whats app ecommerce solutions and adoption of retail centric technology such as virtual reality trial rooms.

Q: How is online shopping changing the whole shopping experience and scenario during the pandemic?

A: Technology and digitisation have been the chief after products of the pandemic with a majority of consumers drifting towards online shopping. Even though, we are trying to accomplish greater in-store experiences for our consumers, their safety and the safety of our staff is of the greater importance due to which are trying to adjust with the growing need of a satisfactory online shopping experience. To keep up with this changing medium of shopping, we are boosting our social media presence. Like I mentioned above, AI applications have been extremely crucial to us in heightening our sales during this slowdown.

Q: What are the expansion plans for Forever New; Business recovery post unlock?

A: We are currently focussed on securing the foundation, the basics of the business and bringing them to perfection. The pandemic has revealed to brands that profitability and having strong cash flows to sustain a severe impact is critical and therefore has pushed brands to re-think on how they plan distribution, expansion and overall business productivity. We are going to snap our tail, loss making stores and re-invest in making better choices on location and also foray into key malls where we are not currently present over the next 12 months. Business will recover to pre- covid levels hopefully by November 2021 as it will take a lot to inspire consumer confidence in a recession caused by the pandemic.