By Debashis Paul, Vice President & Head – Marketing, OCM Private Limited

I wake up to the New Year and all I see are advertisements in the newspapers screeching out the end – of – the – year season sale on fairly salient e-commerce apparel portals. One of them promises that any reason will do, for buying from their fashion sale!
The cacophony of big discounts across well known brands of apparels and accessories has become an all round –the-year phenomenon in the e-market, as we all know, or should I say mobile phone enabled bazaars!
No conventional believer of high quality fabric and apparel manufacturers or retailer in the ‘offline ‘ customer selling can ignore the wide ranging impact that this new age phenomena is beginning to have on every aspect of the business across socio-market segments in the country.
To presume that the e-market challenge is only making inroads into a lower value end-customer buying would be short-sighted. The advertising onslaught is seen in every traditional media that have a far wider reach than the online channels in India today.
Advertising in print ,radio, television and fairly prominent outdoor locations with the aggressive discounted price messaging would progressively have deeper influence on how people at large think about apparel or fabric buying . And let me underline that this is no longer restricted to the youngster market in paving the paths for traction and attitude setting. It has universal appeal.
However, fabric compositions, fabric durability, design and finish, nuances of cut and fit have all been relegated to the background. They are diminishing in importance, if not missing, in the evaluative criteria of the buyer. The upfront brashness of deep discounting is also rapidly nibbling away the proverbial premium image and brand differentiation values of high quality, trusted brands.
So a new approach has to be thought of to revitalise the long standing power brands in the customer facing industry.
To ignore the development might be perilous to players big or small in the industry. Further, the general slowdown of the worsted suiting fabrics, the ever expanding range of competitive products from China and south east Asia are other factors that raise the challenge for the latter marketers.
It’s time to introspect and not take the past glory of the power brands for granted to deliver in 2016 and the future years. So how should one approach in recasting the legacy brands?
It’s not just the product types and designs or branding strategies but perhaps an overhaul of the value creation system for the end-use consumers is crucial.
One way to direct the thinking for paths forward could be, in my view, as follows:
• Uncover and eliminate the hurdles toward speed of response to the end –buyer and cost structures that were taken for granted historically.
• Invent product and services that have game changing potential .Its worth the risk –taking.
• Educate the consumer –the willingness to pay higher correlates with knowledge of relevant benefits.
• Revisit the brand messaging platforms – anchor them on new age latent consumer beliefs and the role that the brand can play in the life of the consumer. Only then can we make differentiation in the sameness of e-commerce propositions and create traction.
Think anew and lets set the ball rolling in a dramatically changing environment.

The views expressed by the author are his own



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