When Metro Shoes launched www.metroshoes.net in 2009, the overwhelming response prompted it to introduce ecommerce sites for its other brands, Mochi and Walkway Shoes. This was to complement its existing presence on various ecommerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and omnichannel marketplaces such as Tata Cliq. Alisha Malik, Vice President, Ecommerce, Metro Shoes said, “In 2017, we began operating our ecommerce operations through a separate warehouse with designated areas that function through Amazon’s and Flipkart’s respective systems.”
While on one hand, established brands like Metro Shoes can leverage their omnichannel presence for better reach, for younger entities, online is the ideal medium to reach out customers with greater ease. Operational since 2014, Komal Panchal’s www.kanvaskloset.com started gaining traction with customers a couple of years ago, inducing her to associate the brand with major ecommerce portals.
CLICK, STEP, GO
The above instances show how footwear retailing has evolved from the brick and mortar format to accommodate to the needs of customers who likes to click and shop, or pick and shop, for that matter.
Last year, Bata India adopted a dynamic stance, launching the Red concept stores and outlining an aggressive retail store expansion plan. This move yielded results, as the company reported growth of 51% in net profit at INR 103 crore in Q3 2018-2019, as compared to INR 68 in the same quarter the year ago. This profit could be attributed to contribution from premium products and higher average sales price – another shift in strategy that the company took.
Metro Shoes, one of the oldest footwear brands, too decided to up its game plan in terms of customer delight. Malik revealed, “We encourage our store managers to offer customers home delivery for sizes or colours of styles that are stocked out. We have invested in IBM’s order management system that can consolidate orders from all channels, thereby maximizing our inventory so we can fulfill orders in real time. We are currently revamping our websites to enable a ship-from-store functionality.”
THE RIGHT FIT
Unlike apparels, the fit overrides the purchase decision in footwear, which is perhaps why customers prefer to visit stores to pick up their pair. Of course, sometimes deal hunters do buy online after narrowing down on a design, especially if they can get a better deal on a website.
Talking about this buying dynamics, Malik shared, “Offline currently comprises the majority of our sales and we will expand our offline network in tandem with our online presence. In the online business, marketplaces make up the majority of our sales. However, our websites aim to enhance the customer’s experience of our brands while through the marketplaces we cater to a larger audience.”
Little wonder then that the brand has witnessed a 100% growth year-on-year growth in their online sales. However, Malik pointed out that when it comes to shopping for premium footwear, customers prefer the offline route. “Value seekers show a better response online,” she opined.
Sharing her opinion about trends in footwear buying habits, Panchal said that the difference between an offline and online customer depends on their fashion consciousness. She added, “Majority of online buyers already own a pair of the brand, hence are comfortable shopping online without trying.”
KEEPING A TAB ON RETURNS
A peril of having an active online presence is that of managing returns. In this category, sellers have to accept that there will be sizing challenges, given the lack of an Indian foot size chart. “Sizes that sell in the North East are far smaller than the sizes sold in Northern India. We ensure that we maintain a robust return management system,” Malik stated.
She added that a major challenge is return from marketplace that comprise of used or damaged pairs. “Here the marketplaces give very minimal compensation and combined with logistics costs, there have been cases where we have ended up paying the marketplace for giving a defective pair back to us!” she rued.
It is interesting how footwear brands are changing their business models to keep pace with customer and market demands. From elevating customer experience, making the best products available across their online and offline channels to providing top-notch service, they are pulling all stops to ensure that their clients consider their brand as their true sole-mate.