Throughout the virus outbreak, there have been certain categories that have taken a hit. The travel industry, beauty and fashion are all suffering as retail stores close and get considered non-essential. We sat down with Madeline George, the Country Manager boohoo Group PLC, ANZ to discuss the effect of COVID-19 on boohoo and Nasty Gal.
Nasty Gal and boohoo are two of the most popular online womenswear retailers in Australia. As pureplay retailers, times like this are experienced differently to multiplayer. The COVID-19 outbreak has hit every possible category hard, just as it has hit the fashion industry. “COVID-19 hit us hard and fast, however, we’re extremely lucky that we are a business that can adapt and pivot efficiently and effectively,” George tells Power Retail.
The fashion calendar has been driven to a halt with the cancellations of various events, such as Coachella, Fashion Weeks and even seasonal changes. “We are not a brand that is bogged down with process, which makes us incredibly nimble in unfortunate situations such as these. Festival was a big priority for Nasty Gal (and somewhat boohoo too), so when Coachella announced its postponement, we had to rethink our creative and marketing plans that were all lined up, and quickly.”
So, is it business as usual for Nasty Gal and boohoo? “Essentially, yes,” George tells Power Retail. However, this action plan doesn’t come without its difficulties. “We are having some difficulty with freight but other than that, it’s business as usual, and personally I’ve been fascinated at how quickly we’ve been able to change up our strategies and innovate ideas that are relevant to the current climate.”
There has been a somewhat boom for online retail in the last few weeks as millions of Australians self-isolate and shops close down. As such, there have been marked changes in the effectiveness of certain advertising spend, that George has found. “We’ve seen different channels pick up and slow down…for example, paid social is performing really well for us now, however, PPC not so much – the intent just isn’t there, but if we can capture them in that social media environment the engagement seems to be there,” she tells Power Retail.
Within the fashion categories, pyjamas, athleisure and loungewear have seen significant uplift. “We’ve seen an uplift in loungewear, pyjamas and basics which is a given, so we will play into this as much as we can,” George explains. “However, I suspect that has people “normalise” to quarantine and isolation-life, there will be an appetite for basics, denim, knits, and dresses; still a relaxed style but something to change things up a bit!”
As millions of Australians spend time at home, the retailers had to think rapidly about its required pivot to maintain sales. “Obviously, loungewear was a no brainer with everyone working from home, so we decided to surface this across all of our channels (homepage, email, social, paid social),” she says. “Sales in loungewear spiked across all brands and all markets, and we had the stock to fulfil this as it’s a core category for both brands.”
Furthermore, brands such as boohoo and Nasty Gal rely heavily on social media for its audience reach. “We worked up two content strategies and rolled out relatable and engaging content to support the transition of people’s lifestyles; #boohoointhehouse and #stayinginwithnastygal. We’ve been filming live podcasts with the Cheer cast, hosting live workouts, tips on how to
work from home, and there’s so much more to come!”
Adapting to the changing social dynamic can be hard for retailers who are launching new collaborations, but for boohoo, it was about changing the mentality of the customer. “More specifically on Australia, when all of this escalated we were two weeks away from launching our biggest campaign to date; boohoo x Hembrows,” George explains. “The campaign was fronted by all four Hembrow sisters, the biggest name being Tammy Hembrow.”
As part of the launch of the new collaboration, the retailer set up a massive launch, but as plans were rearranged, its team had to rethink its strategy, while keeping in the mindset of the customer. “We had a 400 person launch party planned in the Gold Coast that we had to cancel, along with changing up our media mix to where our customers were consuming content,” she says. “We placed a media buy with Tik Tok and tapped into influencers via a gifted send out named ‘Party in a box’ to play on the idea that people were unable to go out.”
For all retailers, one of the driving factors of creating a repeat customer is maintaining loyalty. During the outbreak, however, it appears harder than ever to continue this loyalty with its customers. For boohoo and Nasty Gal, it’s all about keeping customers engaged, informed and entertained. So, what do these retailers rely on to preserve their loyal customer base? “Content!” George says. “Our approach is about keeping our customers engaged, entertained and informed. We want to keep the brand(s) front of mind so that when there’s some spare cash lying about, they know where to come. Price is another big focus for us; we are already extremely competitive on our pricing, so we are playing into this more as wallets tighten and people become more conscious of their spending.”
While the world sits in isolation and waits patiently for the COVID-19 outbreak to end, many things remain uncertain. The future of retail is one of the issues that remain in the balance, but George believes that online retail will experience a boom even after the outbreak has ended. “People who don’t usually shop online and have historically preferred that physical experience, will now be forced into the e-commerce world,” she says. “And they will soon realise what they can get access to from their couch, and will also (hopefully!) be enlightened by the ease of the experience. I think there’s a silver lining in this; more traditional retailers who haven’t for one reason or another focused on their e-comm offering will now have to adapt pretty fast to survive… something that was likely on the roadmap but never got the attention or resources it deserved, until now.”
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