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Retail will be back on growth path in post-COVID world: Ayushman Chiranewala, Fastrack

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Taking an omnichannel approach has given Fastrack a new set of avenues to talk to consumers, says Ayushman Chiranewala, the brand’s Head of Marketing

 

Revenue growth for the January-March quarter has been hit for almost all sectors, particularly watch and jewellery brands tagged as non-essential purchases in these COVID times. However, as businesses slowly open up, companies in this space seem to be now inching towards normalcy.

Despite the lull, Titan’s subsidiary Fastrack has been weaving conversations around the brand through it all. Ayushman Chiranewala, Head of Marketing, Fastrack in a conversation with exchange4media spoke of how the brand leveraged its quirkiness and humour to cheer up people through the lockdown. Taking an omni-channel approach has given the brand new set of avenues to talk to consumers, Chiranewala says.

Edited excerpts:

How much of a slump has the watches space witnessed during the lockdown in terms of retail sales?

Like all non-essential categories, there was practically no sale in the month of April. The market started opening in phases from May onwards and the consumer sentiment is now coming back strongly amongst the youth, but it’s still not back to normal. Non-essential purchase is still not top of the mind for many consumers. However, we have seen some strong triggers like gifting and missed birthdays among top reasons to purchase watches and accessories.

What have been the challenges in terms of market growth?

At the business level it was to gauge which stores to open (on-going track of green zones), how to train the staff with the new normal (wearing masks, using sanitisers, sanitising of products, etc.), bring changes in timings and generate walk-ins. These were some of the biggest challenges to generate sales.

Consumer sentiment has been another big challenge. Consumers have been wary of coming out to shop beyond essentials with safety being the main concern. To address the safety concerns of our customers we worked on a world-class SOP to ensure the entire experience at our stores are as safe as staying at home.

How is the brand embracing online as it becomes the channel of choices?

Online has been the first channel to attain normalcy and digital has primarily been the only channel active during this time for communication. The brand has been active on digital media, but the challenge here was to reach our audience in the most effective manner. From staying relevant during the lockdown to embracing this medium post the lockdown, by giving them a seamless shopping experience without any hassle. Today we see no difference in retail or online marketing. Both are here to serve the same purpose, to stay relevant and connect to our consumers.

Taking an omnichannel approach has given us a new set of avenues and opportunities to talk to these consumers. We have introduced new functionalities like booking an appointment on our websites for store visits to assisted video calling from the store. These features have been really appreciated.

The Covid-19 outbreak will change the way retail is executed in India. How is Fastrack preparing to reopen its stores?

As you have seen, we are reopening stores phase-wise. Any store falling in the containment zone will remain shut until the zone is marked safe. We are taking measures to ensure our staff as well as the consumers feel safe. From the time a consumer enters the store, till he/ she walks out, ensuring their experience is not hampered; we sanitise the product before and after consumers have tried them. Maintaining social distancing among our staff and doing contactless payment. Consumers are now able to book products online and pick it up from a store nearest to them. They can also book an appointment online for a personalised shopping experience.

How has the brand’s marketing changed and evolved in response to the Covid-19 pandemic?

It’s an unprecedented situation with so many uncertainties which led to a lot of panic and anxiety in the initial phase amongst everyone. Emergence of the new normal, a new lingo with Covid, essentials, lockdown, and quarantine being added to our dictionary and no clear outlook on the future. But our TG – the GenZs – resorted to humour to keep calm with memes on staying at home, new normal of doing household chores, being in touch with friends through video calls, attending online classes and playing pranks on professors and friends, change in routine, waking up late and taking up fitness seriously.

It was important to stay connected with our consumers, and tell them they were not going through it alone. Fastrack used the brand’s key strength of quirkiness and humour to cheer up people – keeping them engaged and entertained. We did it all through the lens of social distancing with a fun take on staying at home and beyond.

What was the starting point of your campaigns created during the lockdown?

Our starting point was home! While the lockdown seemed unending, we had to survive it in our own unique and creative ways, with the campaign idea – #HouseItGoing. We had multiple content buckets – Lockdown playlist, dressing it up with Ananya Panday, Fastrack x Sunburn@home, Lockdown diaries and others.

On one hand while this was meant to entertain and reduce anxiety, we also wanted to educate about staying at home. Aiming at the Gen Zs, who were stuck at home with nothing but their own company to enjoy, we launched a series of 3 short videos capturing the true spirit of Ananya Panday who is making the best use of every situation with her unique style validating that this is the best time to experiment and be as outrageous as they like, as long as they #StayTheFIn.

Fitness was the new flavour to get the endorphins high. We launched our new campaign on World Athlete day on Fastrack Reflex Beat, a smart band with Heart rate monitor, urging people to follow and do what their heart wants. Since workout is best enjoyed with buddies, we made group workouts even more fun but with a twist of social distancing with our fitness contest under ‘Reflexing’.

What was your creative brief to your agency?

The brief was to Listen, to Engage and to Entertain with simple fun content, to be agile and empathetic to the changes in Gen Z’s lives and to identify what would strike a chord with them while staying at home.

What would be the growth drivers and focus areas ahead for the brand?

While we are confident that retail will certainly return to its growth trajectory in a post-COVID world, what we have learned so far is that online platforms are quickly becoming the shopping malls of tomorrow. Hence in addition to ensuring our Fastrack stores are ready for the new normal, we are also enhancing our digital footprint, by focusing on channels where our consumers are at present.

 

 

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Misbaah Mansuri

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