E-comm Continues to Dictate The Future of Retail in India in Fashion’s Phygital Era
The turbulent demise of the sales during the lockdown and its inevitable impacts have forced many retail and luxury fashion brands turning to amp up digital presence and e-commerce. But as stores start to open across India, what will that investment mean for the future of retail in India?
Rahul Mishra, Amit Aggarwal and Kshitij Jalori are few of the bigshot names in fashion which have celebratorily made their way into e-commerce and stronger digital presence during the lockdown. At a time when the new normal of social distancing, constant sanitizing, and masking is yet to seep into our bones, customers worldwide are sceptic of taking the plunge of in-store shopping. Digital support and e-commerce could be the landing point to initiate leads which are then converted to sales.
Do Digital Stores Work for Luxury Fashion?
While Myntra’s head of business Ayyappan Rajagopal observes a return to pre-COVID business-as-usual with sales of t-shirts, track pants and night suits seeing racked up orders, can the same be true for high-end luxury shopping? Ruchika Sachdeva’s brand Bodice, after postponing its annual in-store sale due to the lockdown, bolstered the economic slump by a digital sale on its new e-commerce website. As evident from stocks running out during the sale, the brand’s easy drop-crotch trousers, neutral topwear, and mobile dresses were a lockdown favourite. For the veteran couturier Tarun Tahiliani, his brand’s e-commerce portal now accounts for 30% of the sales after adding requested features like more payment gateways and better-illuminated images from all angles to help the buyer understand the piece. Rahul Mishra, who launched his online store in July, observed a rise in orders for the brand’s intricate masks and a preference for the classic silhouettes and craft-heavy pieces instead of avant-garde ones. Ensemble, one of India’s first multi-brand stores, increased revenue manifold after launching their digital store.
India’s craft industry and the fashion industry as a whole were amongst the worst hit due to the pandemic, leaving millions of karigars jobless and without hope. The gradual and cautious efforts to get back to business is followed by the last phase of the government’s “Mission Begin Again” initiative to open retail stores, albeit with maximum safety and precautions. Relying on the digital to fuel sales is perhaps the only way to coax returning consumers to the store as India continues to battle high infection rates and being a close second after the USA. With fears of a second wave lurking, the digital is going to take shape into the phygital- the best of physical and digital shopping in the future of retail in India.
At a time when millennials form the largest buying force in online fashion in India, they search for value in every purchase. This has forced Myntra to relaunch the Myntra Fashion Superstar competition given that their fashion investments are often driven by digital influencers. On the other hand, Ensemble teamed up with Baradari to support India’s craft community. The initiative, which had Kareena Kapoor Khan as its patron, roped in the likes of Anamika Khanna, Rahul Mishra, Tarun Tahiliani, Bodice, Eka, Manish Malhotra, and Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla. It quickly won mass support, which reflected in the sales on the company’s website.
Sales for Indian fashion brands are also going global with the rise of online stores. In such a scenario, adding features like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and virtual changing rooms is on the list of many brands. Retail giant Myntra recently announced its expansion in the Middle East via customised webpages and selections for the targeted audience. But it cannot be denied that craft-heavy fashion such as that of Tahiliani and Mishra’s pieces demand being felt and touched, also because these are investment pieces owing to their high value. In such a case, customers are using the digital store for the initial research and following it up with a connection to the store and trials.
As we move towards the holiday season, with Navratri, Diwali, Christmas and the New Year at the foot of the door, good ol’ tested methods like discounts paired with an expert approach to social media and digital marketing give hopes of making up for the ongoing economic slump. Like most things in the world right now, it’s hard to predict the future of retail in India. But studying consumer patterns and behaviour can pave the way to more responsive, responsible, and accountable fashion choices.