Retailers tap new strategies amid a change in shopping habits
With footfalls in malls and stores almost disappearing, many apparel and home appliances brands are devising strategies to reach out to the consumer directly
Companies are trying out new strategies, including launching their own e-commerce sites, taking orders via WhatsApp calls and organizing swift home-deliveries as they seek to cope with a world that has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.
With footfalls in malls and stores almost disappearing, many apparel and home appliances brands are devising strategies to reach out to the consumer directly.
Benetton, for instance, plans to launch its India-specific website before the end of the year. While sales through online retailers such as Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra contributed roughly a fifth of its sales before the pandemic, it expects the number to rise to almost a quarter by the end of the year. Currently, only 77% of the retailer’s stores are open.
“Online is seeing a big surge right now because of the current environment," said Sundeep Chugh, chief executive officer, Benetton India.
Similarly, LG Electronics India has rolled out its online shop for customers in nine cities after beta-testing its website last month. However, offline trade channels continue to be the backbone of the company in India. “Covid has changed the paradigm of how customers are looking at buying certain products. Online has become an important function, and we see that a lot of new customers are coming from tier 2-3 towns," said Deepak Taneja, business head, online and e-commerce at LG Electronics.
The company has seen online demand pick up in categories such as dishwashers, microwaves and washing machines during the lockdown and after that.
Bengaluru-based e-commerce solutions firm Tenovia Solutions, meanwhile, has seen its business surge by about 80% in the past four months because of demand for building e-commerce websites and helping companies maximize digital revenues. As Indian shoppers move online, there’s a surge in interest from companies that are keen to set up their e-commerce channels, said Murali Balan, chief executive and co-founder of Tenovia. “Obviously, brands are deploying more resources to where they see growth coming from since their core is threatened. Online presence is no longer nice to have, but a must-have," he said.
British fashion retailer Marks & Spencer, which launched its e-commerce portal in India right before the lockdown, has seen customer visits more than double on its websites since May. “Our marksandspencer.in flagship website is experiencing a doubling of customer visits and purchases since May’20," said James Munson, managing director, Marks & Spencer India. The company also offers services through video calls and WhatsApp chats. “Having seen the popularity of click and collect in other markets, we are exploring the option here," Munson said.
Sportswear retailer Puma is also taking orders through WhatsApp, sharing digital catalogues, doing virtual tours and booking appointments on Puma.com for store visits. Puma’s share of business from its own website has grown significantly, said Abhishek Ganguly, general manager, Puma India and Southeast Asia. “Our traffic on Puma.com has grown 3.5 times over the same time last year," said Ganguly.
Even as brands expand their online presence, it will be hard for retailers to match the reach, depth of offerings and discounts offered by marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra.
Denim wear brand Spykar said that while the company plans to put more resources behind its website, it can’t beat the price and reach offered by the marketplaces. “Today, no standalone dot-com has the ability to generate close to what the Flipkarts and Myntras do in terms of business," said Sanjay Vakharia, co-founder and CEO, Spykar.