#BackToBusiness: Madame’s Akhil Jain on the strategy that needs to be followed to bounce back

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March 30, 2021 10:01 AM

From wardrobe changes, handling their inventory to online fashion shows, things have changed the way the fashion industry is looked at now, says Jain

Akhil Jain, executive director, MadameAkhil Jain, executive director, Madame

As brands try to find a sign of semblance post a period of uncertainty, it has become more important than ever to understand and evolve as per changing consumer expectations. From selling goods online to incorporating consumer feedback are some of the ways brands are trying to remain relevant. Akhil Jain, executive director, Madame, talks about how brands and agencies can engage with their consumers–

On the playbook, brands and agencies need to adapt in the new normal

They say ‘Fashion perishes faster than a ripe mango’. All the industries are cut from the same cloth, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the apparel manufacturing and retail industry is no different. While a timeline to ‘post-Covid-19’ is still a pyridine script, industry players have started to prepare themselves for the new norm.

From wardrobe changes, handling their inventory to online fashion shows, things have changed the way the fashion industry is looked at now.

Virtual stores will be the new normal

Online sales have been the key focus for most in the apparel industry while also focussing on safe in-store shopping for customers. To match up with the increase in demand, most organisations have started gearing up their online training facilities for specific retail capabilities along with integrating businesses. The focus has now shifted to creating teams with skills and a mindset that enable businesses to provide consumers with great brand experiences.

Optimal utilisation

Companies that have applied advanced technologies to create new experiences created a new paradigm for customer interaction. There is a constant need to upgrade and update commercial and social relationships.

Agencies too have understood that every business is unique therefore and needs an equally unique solution. They help us in diving deep into the pain points businesses are facing, through effective consulting that goes beyond simple interface tweaks to highlight potential improvements related to strategy, branding, design, functionality, and usability.

The future always keeps evolving and technology-enabled business trends will not only be a boon for consumers but also stimulate growth and innovation. The retail industry is steadily building a niche that has been quite evident especially during Covid-19. Consumers are currently demanding more shopping options that are convenient, accessible, and safe.

On the gradual return of the business – how much of it is restored and the new trends which can be spotted compared to pre-Covid times

The Covid-19 phase has been the most unexpected and unprecedented and demand, supply, and workforce availability were affected globally. However, at Madame, we closely engaged with our customers throughout Covid, and this close engagement paid off with online sales picking up. As soon as the Unlock started, we saw an upswing in tier 2 and tier 3 in-store sales, leading to us opening several stores in upcountry locations. We reached upto 70% of pre-Covid sales by November and now are at nearly 100% pre-Covid sales.

Online shopping for us was at about 2% of total revenues before Covid, and now it is nearly 10% of our overall sales. This change is likely to continue in the future as well. With investments in high-end technology, we aim to boost the online shopping experience.

On how brands can create at-home meaningful experiences for consumers

In-store shopping trips, where not possible have been supplanted by online shopping. The pandemic encouraged the adoption of new buying patterns across all industries, but especially in apparel. For the past few months, Madame has been able to culminate various experiences and aspects of selling their line on an online platform. The virtual experiences have been magnified for the customers and Madame has through in-depth analysis improved consumer’s online experiences, giving them newer ways to explore themselves through fashion. Daywear, summer essentials are being termed as the new quarantine wardrobe and while luxury apparel clothing has stepped aside friendly, loungewear and activewear are seeing increasing buying patterns.

Madame has maintained its commitment towards nature and sustainability. We have created innovative designs that minimise textile waste in the manufacturing process. We feel emerging as a sustainable fashion brand is the need of the hour and all brands needs to move towards environment friendly fashion. Our long-term sustainability goal is to move towards becoming a 100% environmentally friendly organization. We also plan to reduce the carbon footprint by at least 80% and then become a carbon-negative company by 2030.

On the contribution of online versus offline outlets and how brands can make the most of the shift towards digital

Earlier last year, in a strategy jig we strengthened our online presence. We launched an exclusive online shopping website glamly.com. Our existing website was revamped and modified in line with our current apparel line and the diversified products to provide a personalised customer experience. In India, with more than 700 points of sales, we have devised our distribution mechanics to focus on market penetration.

The e-commerce industry has witnessed a boom in the past few months and thus on some of the platforms like Glamly, Myntra, Amazon and Ajio led to massive sales for us at Madame. New strategies in the manufacturing, retailing, and distribution sectors have been devised to cater to the emerging westernized style of clothing.

Digitalisation allows companies to adjust products based upon demand for those products using real-time sales information, allowing them to accelerate the production of best-sellers and cut their losses on the laggards. The opportunities surrounding digitisation have made it possible for brands to access, store and process a large amount of data both from within a firm and externally. Many manufacturing units now obtain individualised customer data to personalise the product design, service and sales process. In a system with end-to-end transparency, every member within the network will have access to all data.

On how your category has evolved and the steps to be undertaken by brands to connect within Tier 2, 3, 4 markets and beyond

Local consumption and customer preferences allow us to tap the potential that each region carries thereby impacting deeper thrust into zonal marketing.  Our operation models have led to a double-digit growth year on year, excluding 2020. We have witnessed a significant growth in online sales during the pandemic period of 2020. The online sales jumped from 2% of overall sales to nearly 10% with a continuing upward trend majorly contributed to by growth in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Cities like Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Jaipur, Mohali, Noida, Jammu and Shimla were the high growth cities for the brand.

We maintain our market positioning as an international brand with bold fashion statements and keep up with the international trends, new and upcoming styles with experimental fabrics.

In the upcoming three years, we are expecting a three-fold growth through online sales and we have an intense focus on online sales.

Read Also: #BackToBusiness: Wiggles’ Anushka Iyer on the strategy that needs to be followed to bounce back

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