The new normals in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly the way we live our life.
The nation-wide lockdown is slowly being lifted and life is slowly crawling back to a new-normalcy. Businesses and brands are now are making their way back into the business; planning their communication plans for a new world post the covid-19 lockdown.
In this story of Medianews4u’s new series, Back to Business, we spoke to Anand Narang – VP Marketing, Bata India
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on Bata? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
All our factories and retail outlets were shut for close to two months. Not only Bata but also the whole retail industry has been badly impacted. We have now opened nearly 1300 stores across the country.
Learning from what happened in Europe and South-East Asia, we had started preparing well in advance and utilized the period of lockdown studying consumer behavior in order to be prepared for how it might change post the lockdown.
We also kept constantly engaging with our customers through our digital & CRM campaigns. We launched #ParkYourShoes campaigns to urge all our consumers to stay at home and share all the fun and exciting things they are doing while at home. Our other campaign, and #StayActiveWithPower was all about giving fitness a fillip while people stay home for prolonged periods and might just lose out on their daily fitness regime. We also updated our store operational timings on popular search & map platforms to keep our customers informed. The very intent of these campaigns showcase our resilience and responsibility, attributes that are inherently part of our brand DNA and further help putting out the message that we care for the health and safety of our people, be it our employees, customers or partners.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes lead to a revision of existing business models … What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your brand/industry/category?
As the ongoing pandemic has impacted consumer behavior and more people are looking towards e-commerce platforms to make their purchases. We have accordingly segmented our consumers in three categories- Digital Natives, Digital Adopters and Digital Novices. For our digital novices, like the elderly, children and home makers-people who haven’t been stepping out of the house as much, we have launched Bata Store on Wheels. We wanted to enable them to make hyper-local purchases from the safety of their condominiums and apartments with assisted digital shopping with footwear experts. We have also launched another new channel called Bata ChatShop which allows customers to shop from their local Bata stores via WhatsApp chat and video calls and get footwear delivered on the same day. We thought if our customers cannot come to us, as their favorite brand, we’ll reach out to them right at their doorsteps. Apart from the hyperlocal services, we have scaled up the product catalogue on our ecomm platform www.bata.in which now has more than 6000 products.
We now service more than 1300 towns and cities through our e-commerce platforms, which includes our website, bata.in, and our partners like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, PayTM, Tata Cliq and Ajio to name a few.
In the current Unlock plan being implemented by the government, how have you resumed the business?
At present, nearly 1300 of our retail outlets all across the country are fully operational. Pre-lockdown, we had already initiated multiple measures to train our store staff about Covid-19, how to keep themselves safe following Government-mandated guidelines, how to clean & disinfect the stores at regular intervals and keep sanitizers for walk-in customers to ensure a safe & healthy shopping environment for our customers. Now that our retail outlets are functional again, we have framed the modalities for store re-openings with immense care and caution. Based on the government guidance and the best global practices employed by retailers at large, Bata has curated an elaborate store re-opening manual. The guidebook has been translated into 11 regional languages for the convenience of our consumers and staff. We have also supplied sanitizers, gloves, masks, dispensers and quarantine boxes for shoes to all our stores. Digital payments like cards, wallets are already accepted in all our stores. We have taken every possible precaution to ensure a safe shopping experience for our consumers.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy has been focused in 4 areas – understanding consumer behavior and its implications on portfolio & merchandising, evolving our channel-mix to continue to serve our customers better, communicating relevant and engaging content and adopting industry best practices in delivering superior customer experience.
As consumer preferences shifted from fashion to fitness and formals to casual, we evolved our portfolio in stores to reflect these changes. We also curated & launched relevant collections like Easy Wash footwear, Fitness at Home, new Power fitness apparel & masks and Work from Home collections. We scaled up our digital presence with presence across ecomm partner channels to service 1300+ cities and launched new channels like Bata Chat Shop(shopping over Whatsapp from local Bata store) & Bata Store on Wheels(shopping at doorstep via kiosk activation in societies). Finally, our communication assured consumers of a safer shopping environment, whichever channel they shopped from, accepting contactless digital payments and suggesting relevant products via Bata Club, our loyalty program. To offer a better customer experience, we updated customers about our store opening timings via Whatsapp & Google maps, offered same day delivery via our new Bata ChatShop channel, service to check offers & points available to them over Whatsapp and offering Bata Home Delivery in case their favorite style was not available in the desired color or size to name a few.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
We employ more than 10,000 employees across all our locations. We at Bata have a very strong value system. Our employees are like family to us and we have been with them every step of the way. Before going into lock down, we ensured that we had adequate infrastructure to facilitate a seamless transition to a work from home situation. We took up manufacturing of masks and face-shields in in all our factories and distributed the same to some of our employees, their families, local hospitals and policemen, whomever we could reach out to. We also kept our employees engaged through our digital campaigns as well. In fact, for our digital campaigns, we did not collaborate with any external influencers at all. Instead, we urged our employees-our most valuable resource-to share videos of them enjoying the simple pleasures of life at home. The response that we got from them was truly overwhelming.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
Footwear wasn’t categorized as an essential commodity during the lockdown, and because of that, there was pent up demand in the market. We believe that the demand is will grow soon, but it will mostly be need based. Customers are going to invest more in products that are comfortable and versatile. Keeping in line with the customer sentiment, we have launched a range of ‘work from home’, ‘Fitness at home’ and ‘easy-wash’ footwear collections. The ‘Easy wash’ footwear shoes can be easily washed and sanitized, without impairing the material and design.
Our focus right now is to serve customers in whatever channels they are comfortable with. Today, we offer Bata products via 5 different digital channels –conversational commerce over Whatsapp via Bata ChatShop, social commerce over Facebook shopping, digital commerce over bata.in, horizontal platforms commerce on our partners channels like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Ajio etc and assisted digital commerce during Store on Wheels activation. We are taking every step to ensure we are well prepared to meet future customer demands.