FASHION: "THE CRISIS MAY MEAN A PARADIGM SHIFT"
Argentine fashion consultant Mariana Flink shared tips for fashion brands to get through this period of global crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an exceptional and unprecedented moment for the whole of society and a high level of uncertainty and concern for the future of business. In this context, Uruguay XXI organized a virtual talk by Mariana Flink, founder of the Argentine consulting firm Despacho de Moda, who gave a series of recommendations as an honorary contribution to help Uruguayan brands adapt to the new situation and successfully overcome the economic crisis.
The purpose of the initiative was to clear up doubts and answer certain questions from companies: what can brands do to make the most of this time, what should the relationship between brands and customers be like, how important is the use of social networks, what to do with e-commerce, what will the "after" be like for brands when this happens?
Despacho de Moda has been working in the fashion industry for 12 years and in these last weeks, according to its founder, it has had more work than in the last eight months. Since February - when the arrival of the virus in the region could already be predicted - the consultancy firm began to urge brands to make decisions that would cushion the consequences that social isolation would cause. The first thing they recommended was to move as many products as possible to the houses in order to make the shipments. Today, the Argentine brands that followed the advice have access to their product and can sell it.
"One thing you can learn at this point is to read between the lines in the media: the first warnings of possible confinement were indicators that we were going to get to this situation," Flink reflected.
The business management consultant for the fashion and lifestyle sector considered that this is a propitious moment to think about how to be prepared and generate a financial back that will serve as a support during crises. "There is no single recipe, the focus has to be on what each brand considers to be the most important and choose what to do with the resources it has available. Outside the crisis, decisions were made according to a formula, in this context decisions are much more personal. It is an opportunity to define the values of each brand and act accordingly," she said.
"The first thing is not to disappear. If your brands disappear now, they will also disappear after quarantine. It is essential to accompany your customers and decide how they will accompany you," she said. In that sense, social networks are the communication channel that allows brands to connect with their customers in a moment of confinement like the present.
Taking into account that customers are likely to use social networks longer is fundamental. Increasing the number of daily postings, creating new content, offering entertainment options, from putting together a music playlist, recommending or giving virtual courses, sharing recipes or creating surveys where everyone can participate, to opening up spaces for sharing feelings. This not only contributes to strengthening the bonds between the customer and the brand, but it is another form of solidarity, she said.
One of the key points to get through this period is to get e-commerce moving. The focus should be on this business model in order to "move the financial wheel," the fashion consultant said. Offering free shipping, combos or special discounts are some of the strategies to stimulate the public to buy the products. In addition, Flink noted that it is a difficult time to sell high-cost items, so focusing on selling cheaper products should be considered an option.
Another key strategy is to "open up the brand," which means offering the consumer a chance to be part of creating the designs, to co-create. Involving customers in production is comforting for them, it makes customers feel useful and helps to strengthen their bond with the brand, she said. "You have to allow yourself flexibility from the product to the communication: you have to try to be different", she advised.
It is difficult to predict the future in these circumstances, but Flink pointed out some trends that will deepen after the period of isolation is over. She noted that the trends of local consumption, non-consumption, transparency and flow fashion will be more present and considered that "it is good to focus production and communication on these trends". "Normality is going to be redefined and it will be different to the one we know," she said.
The trend towards local consumption means a revaluation of products made in the country and a tool that consumers will find to contribute to the local economy. The trend towards non-consumption refers to the selective consumption that customers may express: the preference to pay more for a product with longer durability. Timelessness and durability are two factors that will be very present, the consultant said.
On the other hand, the tendency to transparency of brands is something that has assumed greater relevance and is a measure that must be sustained over time. "What is done now should not disappear after the quarantine," she warned. This is a "change of brand", of "opening the soul of the brand and sharing it with our customers and suppliers. Brands have to be more human and closer: less photoshop and more reality. To be the same all the time with the idea of strengthening the ties with those around the brand and be close," she said.
"The concept of competition is going to change. Today, more than competition we are collaborators. In the fashion world, there are still many people who are afraid of sharing information, but now they are going to start being much more open. In the future, we are going to compete and we are going to continue collaborating. The crisis may mean a change of paradigm. The place from where we stand as a brand is going to define our future as a company".
Although there is no precise recipe for what to do at a time like this, Flink stressed that solidarity and collaborative spirit are essential ingredients for finding a way out together.