For the footwear industry, the other shoe has dropped

  •  October 27,2020 By IndianTelevision Team

NEW DELHI: Covid2019 has severely impacted the economy at large, with every sector struggling with its own set of challenges. The footwear industry is no exception. In the past few months, shoe brands have witnessed a fall in sales as people have mostly stayed home and are hesitant to step out, thereby limiting their need for too many footwear options.

According to Metro Brands Ltd VP marketing and e-commerce Alisha Malik, the pandemic has impacted consumers’ buying patterns. “Today, we see our customers opting for footwear which is high on comfort and can be easily sanitized. The open-toe category, especially slides, are in great demand. Essentials and feel good shopping are the new mantra among buyers.”

But the overall volume of purchases has registered a significant drop, she averred. “While customers have started spending, these are more feel-good shopping therapy. Occasion wear and frequency of buying has reduced,” she explains.

The other shoe has dropped for the footwear industry, and it will take some time before things return to normalcy. In the meantime, brands have adopted innovative ways to reach their target audience. Metro shoes has been working on different formats to connect with customers and offer them a safe shopping experience without compromising on hygiene.

Trying on new outreach methods

To this end, the brand has launched special initiatives like ‘Home Visit’ and pop-up stores. As part of the ‘Home Visit’ service, the customer can take a virtual tour of the store over WhatsApp, choose products, and ‘Try and Buy’ from the comfort of their home. ‘Drive Thru’ service allows clients to make a purchase from the comfort of their car. The shoe company has also opened up pop-up stores in select apartments and housing complexes while following safety protocols.

Malik shared that the team tried to understand buyers’ sentiments by examining various modes, like effective customer relations, right communication and new ways of outreach. In particular, e-commerce has helped the brand survive in these trying times.

However, even though lockdown has been lifted, risk continues to prevail, and customers are still worried about stepping out. “Therefore, we have implemented strict safety and hygiene standards that will continue to be followed in all our stores. Providing a safe shopping experience for customers at our offline stores is one of our top priorities. Our focus is to reach customers in the most convenient manner, whether through offline stores or online channels – that is their choice.”

Going the e-retail way

The company shared that the average growth of the e-commerce business in the last few months is over 80 per cent compared to last year. 

“There is a significant shift in the online-offline sales ratio. The contribution of online sales to the overall top line has increased quite a bit. Store footfalls have impacted; however, the various other channels are helping to drive numbers,” Malik added.

There has been a drastic shift in consumer behaviour since the pandemic has struck, and retailers need to adapt to these new changes. Due to the prevailing conditions, the brand has a higher focus on e-commerce, and it will remain a key strategy going forward.

Festive cheer to kickstart sales

The brand is quite optimistic that the festive season will bring a wave of positivity among people, and it will help them achieve sales. Metro has come up with a specially curated collection for the Dussehra-Diwali period.

“We do expect people to shop during the festive season for self and gifting. We will continue to reach out to customers in different ways. Along with going omnichannel and focusing on our e-commerce business, and the other additional services offered by the brand will surely help us expand our reach during the festive season. We are quite hopeful that these festivities would bring some relief to the retail segment and everyone in general,” said Malik.

Fleet-footed marketing

In terms of marketing strategy, the brand is focusing on digital media, influencers and social media marketing extensively to engage and reach out to potential customers. “On digital platforms, performance marketing continues to be a key focus, and performance advertisements give the best ROI. We are also engaged with loyal customers through conversational channels such as WhatsApp and SMS,” she added.

Two years ago, Metro roped in Sidharth Malhotra and Katrina Kaif as brand ambassadors, but due to various reasons, the company is no longer experimenting with any celebrity faces. Malik said the contract with the actors ended last year in August. When the celebrities were on board, their power was capitalised via many campaigns: instore, VM on digital and in other ways.

She explained, "Last year, we took a conscious call not to renew the deals and get any celebrity on board. Consumer trends are changing, and customers want to associate with brands that are more real. We launched our new campaign ‘Wear what you are’ without celebrities and it gave us very good traction.”

In fact, shared Malik, not having celebrities happens to give higher flexibility on content and budgets. In the age of social media virality, the brand is focusing on increasing the reach and engagement by investing in different ideas. “Today, customer ideals are changing. Celebrities are an ideal but influencer looks are achievable and attainable which fits in with today’s instant gratification customer,” she concluded.

Confident of their connect with customers and armed with an optimistic outlook, it will be interesting to see how soon Metro Brands, and the footwear industry as a whole, is able to land on its feet and race to recovery.