Soch Apparels has embarked on Digital First Strategy and is on a Digital Transformation journey. The brand is planning for significant investments. The emphasis will be given to implementing tech-led interventions for growth and efficiency drivers across Planning, Buying, Merchandising, SCM, Operations, Marketing & Digital. Soch is making strategic changes across E-commerce and Omni channels to drive double-digit revenue growth through digital channels by FY22-23.
In conversation with Medianews4u, Vinay Chatlani, CEO, Soch Apparels spoke about the brand’s performance during the pandemic and frequent lockdown, the brand’s digital road map, and more.
Speaking on the impact of the pandemic on the brand, Chatlani said, “The pandemic has made us pause and reflect. Most large retail brands have taken a financial hit. Store closures and a drop in consumer sentiments would do this to most in the fashion space. However, our customers have shown an increasing intent to shop online. Many of our investments have been skewed towards digital innovation and increasing exposure to all digital sale touchpoints. The pickup on sales has been much quicker than it was after the first lockdown. Most retailers are optimistic after having seen this, and I feel that we would see a surge and a quick bounce back soon.”
The brand’s digital roadmap over the next 2 years is something that Team Soch is excited about.
“Our focus on marketplaces has increased multifold. To our pleasant surprise, our full-price sales are much higher than the industry average. We saw roughly a 3x number during the lockdown. We only recently onboarded with Ajio and Nykaa and have seen very promising numbers,” Chatlani said.
He further added, “We are confident that in the next financial year, we would be able to hit a 10X revenue as compared to FY 18-19. Historically we have always had low stock levels and had looked at marketplaces from a liquidation standpoint. Thus the emphasis on growing it was not needed. Having been forced to look at it from a fresh perspective has brought numerous opportunities to light.”
Chatlani is hopeful that the festive season would definitely witness a surge in Soch’s sales numbers.
“Customer sentiment analysis for festive and season launches is based on a two-pronged approach of social listening and market study. Having multiple drops has also allowed us to keep lean on stock, and therefore we have been able to buy much more relevant merchandise for the season. Consumers are still conscious about spending, but that also means that people who would look at the luxury segment are now considering more mass premium brands like Soch,” he said.
Speaking about the marketing strategies during the festive season, he said, “This season, we will showcase our festive collection through smaller capsules as well as a broader campaign. Microcontent is something we are paying special attention to, as this helps across digital touchpoints, but also in our stores since we entered into digital signage and video content years ago. As far as mediums are concerned, we will continue to explore digital mediums along with our traditional media like OOH, Print, and BTL activations.”
“We have always kept content production levels high, regardless of how much advertising money is put behind it,” said Chatlani while speaking about the ad and marketing spends of the brand.
“Much of how much we look to spend will depend on how markets play out over the next few weeks. A base spend has been allocated with scaling up plans already done. We also will have opened about 15 new stores by the festive period for the financial year, and stores in new geographies will need marketing spends in any case,” he added.
Soch has invested in data binding technologies such as the BI platform that provides intelligent analysis and easy-to-use “Root Cause Analysis” techniques.
“Striking feature of the BI tool is the auto-detection of exceptions, and alerting the appropriate stakeholder whenever certain business rules are violated,” Chatlani said.
He further said, Soch is rolling out an AI/ML-driven Planning, Buying and Merchandising tool, which provides smart recommendations. We are integrating a “Personalized Product recommendation” engine, driven on AI/ML algorithms at the point of purchase, offline and online. This engine, once implemented, will pop up recommendations on the cashier’s screen, based on the identified customer’s past trends and preferences, and will also factor in current items in the cart to recommend the best possible merchandise to upsell to the customer.”
Soch currently is working on various services for better consumer experience and convenience
“A tightly integrated digital marketing plan that is in constant touch with the merchandise offerings and consumers, a holistic Omni Channel platform. Roll out of an in-store app as well as a brand app. Live commerce, virtual shopping, and social commerce. All integrated into as many touchpoints as possible,” Chatlani said.
So, how well is the brand prepared for the third wave of the pandemic?
“We have taken the necessary steps to vaccinate our staff and follow all safety protocols. We have tried to de-risk the supply chain through broader sourcing and innovative warehousing options. Some merchandise has been designed with all raw materials sourced (fabrics, trims etc.), where a quick turnaround on manufacturing can be achieved in the event of sales picking up. Working capital allocation is also being looked at. Learnings from the last two waves have, of course, been put to use to insulate us as best possible in the event of a third wave,” Chatlani Concluded.