As the world locks down due to the Corona virus pandemic, brands, businesses, societies and people alike are passing through a traumatic experience. Daily lives have changed dramatically for most of us. Those facing the customers, those behind the desks and those out in the field. None is spared of this life threatening & devastating turning point in the history of human kind.
Brands everywhere are having to make difficult decisions on how they will support compliance with local regulations and closures, continue to serve the business, and strategize on how to emerge stronger after all this is over. For many, this means that large populations of employees – including those who work in headquarters and store support centers, store associates, and distribution workers – are faced with new types of working, including working from home.
In such a scenario, Luxury & Fashion isn’t obviously necessary to preserve life. For sure, today, a steak is actually a much more vital resource than a dress! However, the economic contribution of sectors like real estate, fashion, fine dining, watches & jewelry etc. cannot be discounted. What can a brand do to remain relevant during these testing times? How does it maintain mind share to be able to bounce back once this is all behind us.
Here are few tips which could be useful to adapt now. If you can effectively reinforce your culture while supporting these changes, you will emerge stronger than before.
A. Focus Area: New & Existing Customer
- Keep in Touch, Connect & engage with your current clients.Get a feel for their business right now and assure them that your services will offer (X), or be available for (Y), or that your products and services are currently unavailable until at least (Z). Whatever the case might be, it’s important that you keep your current clients in the loop.
- Don’t stop prospecting.Cutting down on your marketing now is not a good choice. However, keep in mind that now, is not the time to be “loud” in your outreaches. Do not hard sell, be compassionate and display sensitivity to what’s currently happening in the world.
- Increase your messaging output.Top sellers should actually increase their messaging output rather than lowering from or maintaining the current rate. This ties back into the previous point, don’t stop prospecting, and actually increase your output wherever possible to maximize your chances for success.
- Provide in-person experiences to select customers.Use this to reinforce relationships with your best customers – whether this is still virtual, in their own home, or in store. As long as safety precautions are met, this can go a long way in maintaining your bond with customers.
- Offering “video personal shopping”; ‘Virtual walk through’; ‘3D simulations’: If your store is closed, make phone appointments available so your talented people can provide the next best thing to “being there.” Offer virtual walk through experience through your apartment. A 3D simulation is a great tool to adapt too.
- Accelerate your digital experience.Over communicate on all aspects – store closures, hours, special programs, promotional offers, and overall customer experience – so that customers don’t forget your brand and also continue to experience the brand the same way they always knew and loved
- Reinforce your culture – virtually: Most who work in customer interfacing roles are by nature good humoured and friendly. They survive on their daily dose of engagement with fresh and existing customers. This eventually becomes the culture of any retail led organisation. Continue to do the same via video selling facilities, virtual trunk shows and on line fashion shows.
- Understand your clients better – Deep dive into CRM data. Best time to upgrade, understand, & improve upon ways of capturing client data. Go into minor details, irritants to staff and clients alike and bring in new technology to ease customer journey.
B. Focus Area: Product improvement
- Build up design depository: Utilize this isolation period to build up and enhance your product design depository. With more and more customer seeking personalization, this is the best time to amalgamate front end feedback about each individual client and build up a personalized design offering for him in advance. Surprise him when you re-open.
- Revamp your existing inventory: Recycle-upcycle-cross cycle seems to be the trend. Evaluate and reposition existing inventory in a fresh perspective.
C. Focus Area: Brand Development
- Prepare for the future – Digitize and thrive. The future being virtual, develop capabilities, resources and assets to boost digital presence. AI, VR and AR is at our doorsteps. The current pandemic is going to change the way we will work.
- Offset lockdown with e-commerce Rise of e-commerce will be mandated and lead to increased R&D allowing for an equally direct relationship with consumers online as it is offline. With e-commerce, brands would also gain more control over inventory and personalization.
- Sustainable luxury. Today, when it comes to sustainability, many luxury brands are still only skimming the surface. Things are likely to change with a common perception doing rounds that the coronavirus is nature’s way of directing mankind to ‘step back & introspect’. Luxury businesses must empower luxury consumers to understand, follow and control their own impact for more responsible consumption of luxury.
- Research & Check on competition. Take a calmer look at competition, their operations, their process, their product and their teams.
- Improve – improve – improve. Utilize above research to update, recreate, revamp and overhaul the processes, systems, tools and capabilities.
- Action plan 2020-21. A strategic plan with over all improvements and business plan to hit the road running once all this is behind you soon.
D. Focus Area: Team development
- Listen and be empathetic.Your teams will react differently based on their own situations. It is key for each individual manager to have open discussions with their teams – both in group settings and in 1:1’s. No topic should be off limits.
- Empower your leaders – don’t micro manage.Give your managers enough authority to approve equipment that is needed to boost productivity. Determine loosely what your policy will be – and then let the managers put it in action. Better yet – push rational decision making down to the individual.
- Knowledge upgrade. Research, strategize and upgrade skills. Prepare for the new future, a new way of life and a new way of working. Join courses, programs, and webinars. Encourage your teams to do so as well.
- Challenge your teams to learn new systems quickly.Make it competitive – and provide awards and recognition as a result. Use this as a way to catch up on required training.
Either way, the answer here is not to sit back with your feet up. So, while these times are nowhere near “business as usual,” let’s do our best to continue doing great work in the areas we can control.
And if we all do our part, we’ll get through this together. After all, one needs to shape up or ship out! There is no other choice!