Amid lockdown, fashion firms work overtime to keep customers engaged

Leading fashion retailers and ecommerce companies are going all out to keep their customers hooked on to their platforms.

Online retailers such as Myntra and Tjori have their consumer engagement teams working on to engage their customers till the time the lockdown eases. Others such as fashion brand Anita Dongre are brainstorming changes in consumer behaviour and how to keep them engaged online till the time stores become fully operational.

Shopaholics, on their part, are keeping their shopping carts ready for delivery once the lockdown eases. Psychologists term it as “comfort buying” under stress.

“In the lockdown period, panic-struck customers need comforting, where our social media and customer support teams are working round the clock. We are focusing on sales and other campaigns to distract some people from their stress,” Tjori founder Mansi Gupta said.

In the last few weeks, the online retailer of ethnic fashion wear and accessories received a vast list of queries from customers on how they could still buy products, Gupta said. So, the company announced a “steal sale” with discounts up to 70% and the number of orders swelled over last week. These non-essentials are being bought in advance. “The goods will be shipped once the lockdown is lifted,” she said.

Acquist Marketing & Information Solutions director Ipsita Guha, who finds shopping to be a stressbuster, said she would stick to online shopping for the next three months for her favourite brands like Ritu Kumar, Mango and Zara. “I will not go to shopping outlets and malls immediately,” Guha said.

However, it is not going to be easy for shopping platforms to engage consumers digitally and motivate them to spread word of mouth about the brand during the lockdown, feel marketing experts like Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore professor S Ramesh Kumar.

During these unprecedented times, most people are likely to miss out on this ritual of shopping that provides recreation, pleasure and self-gifting, said Kumar. Companies are likely to adopt consumer engagement activities through multi-sensory experiences, “advergaming” (online games with interactive ads), contests or brand-related episodes, he said.

Aman Bhonsle, a mental health professional at Heart To Heart Counselling Centre, said shopaholism would increase as people would try and find an escape route from the gloomy narrative around. “For people who are shopaholics, the release of dopamine-like chemical gives them a feeling of reward and emotional security,” Bhonsle said.

At Myntra, engaging customers since lockdown has been a collaborative effort with experts involved from multiple teams. “The problem we are constantly trying to solve is how to deliver useful content and create a positive impact on our customers during these times,” marketing head Harish Narayanan told ET.

Kavindra Mishra, the CEO of fashion and apparel brand Anita Dongre, is spending his time brainstorming how will its stores enable secure garment trial for customers once the lockdown ends.

Mishra said there would be a significant shift in consumer behaviour with online channels attracting more buyers not just for discount shopping but for full-priced, even high-end, merchandise. “People will be more confident about shopping online. Fresh merchandise cart will sell online more, and that will be a big change,” said Mishra.

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