Almost all industries have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, but one of the hardest-hit industries is fashion and apparel. To survive, brands in this industry (especially SMB and niche brands) must be strategic and innovative in how they manage the outbreak, so they can remain competitive and relevant.
Being agile and acting fast is also critical for SMB and niche brands. This will allow them to use the outbreak as an opportunity to build stronger customer relationships and create more value.
To help SMBs and niche brands in the fashion and apparel industry, the following are four concrete steps that can be used to fight the negative impact of COVID-19, come out on top and prepare their brands for the future.
1. Promote Work-From-Home Wear and Give Activewear New Meaning
One of the biggest challenges SMBs and niche brands are struggling with today is excess stock. To manage this pain point, companies can promote excess stock as work-from-home wear and significantly push activewear as durable and fun to wear clothing during this period of ‘work from home.’
In China (which has seen one of the most thorough lockdowns of our time), activewear is in demand because people are working from home. Therefore, as more companies in countries like India, Singapore and Indonesia, ask employees to work from home or work remotely, brands may find that consumers are more willing to spend on work-from-home wear and activewear, which can be worn to carry out a variety of tasks.
2. Sell Necessities to Remain Relevant
Fashion brands that survive crises like COVID-19 are those that sell necessities and therefore remain relevant. During the 2008 financial crisis, brands that survived were those that innovated by (1) re-defining classic categories, (2) introducing new collaborations with similar and/or complementary brands and (3) offering community inspired products. This strategy allowed them to impact consumers more than their competitors.
Fashion retailers should identify gaps in the market and re-categorize inventories as ‘necessary items’ and ‘unnecessary items’ – from the customer’s point of view – and promote the ‘necessary items.’ Necessities can range from basics, work-from-home wear and accessories to clothing that is likely to come in handy during times of crisis.
Marketing necessities can be done in a variety of ways, such as discounted bundle items or through flash sales. Bundle items can also vary from same-item bundles to complementary bundle times.
3. Make Use of Free SaaS Trials
COVID-19 will likely accelerate almost every brand’s attempts to sell goods and services on digital channels. Therefore, there’s a strong chance that the online space will get even more saturated, very quickly. To counter this, brands should re-think their digital strategy and act fast to strengthen areas like predictive analytics.
During times of crisis, predictive analytics, which employs data science, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, will be especially useful for SMBs and niche brands. It will give them a competitive edge during COVID-19 by enabling them to carry out precision targeting, which can save money and time. Many SaaS companies that do predictive analytics, like Alavi.ai, are currently offering free trials. Fashion brands should take advantage of these trials to manage the negative impact of COVID-19 and beat the odds.
4. Brand First, Always
One of the least affected industries during the 2008 financial crisis was luxury fashion and there are many lessons in that for SMBs and niche brands. However, the main one is that during the financial crisis, luxury brands put their brand first.
SMBs and niche brands should focus on their brand’s core values and make sure their “brand storytelling is precise, specific and insight-driven.” This effort would differentiate them from mainstream brands, like Zara and H&M, and create meaningful value for money-conscience and money-tight consumers. This value can be created through inspiring campaigns that promote the good the brand is doing during this time of crisis, especially in terms of how it is helping its employees and customers. Staying close to customers and providing brand-specific, personalized service might save many SMBs and niche brands during these uncertain times.
This article was published in the ‘What’s Hot’ section of IndianRetailer.com on March 20, 2020.