Even Confcommercio says so: clothing stores are one of the categories most affected by the Covid restrictions, with turnover in freefall and sales down by 30%.
One of the main reasons for this sector’s crisis is customer’s propensity to want to try on an item of clothing before buying, and the still rather limited presence of neighbourhood merchants on e-commerce platforms and social showcases.
Added together, these factors have resulted in a gradual disappearance from consumer’s radars of small fashion shops, to the advantage of the large clothing chains that have lined their pockets thanks to increasingly full digital shopping carts.
But you can still reverse this trend: with just a little cunning, a lot of goodwill and the right tools at hand.
Let’s start from the latter: the ally for anyone who wants to get online seamlessly, selling even when the shutters are down while continuing to play a leading role for their customers, is called ShopCall. It is a video commerce platform as innovative as it is user-friendly. It allows you to communicate via video call with customers, showcase products via smartphone and immediately conclude the purchase, complete with payment and shipping management. All without having to install anything, nor needing to own a site or even a complex e-commerce service.
Having acquired the toolto immediately enter the world ofonline shopping, all that remains is to conjure up ways to intrigue customers and entice them into making purchases.
Among the avant-garde shops, of convinced users of ShopCall, a case of excellence for resourcefulness and dynamism is Didì Dual Design, a fashion concept store in Bra, the city where the Slow Food movement was born, in Italy.
Like all retail brands, Didì Dual Design also experienced the Covid-19 tornado: lockdowns, closures, restrictions and customers reluctant to return to normalcy. But they reacted and got back on their feet.
How? Manuela, the shop owner and creative engine for its rebirth, tells us about it.
“My customers live on their smartphone: that’s where we need to be”
Manuela opened the Didì Dual Design clothing store almost 20 years ago. Over time, the brand has grown to establish itself as a historic shop in Bra, a reference point for the trendy women’s fashion in the city and surroundings. Frequented by a sought-after clientele, Didì Dual Design is a popular and populated multi-brand concept store, a meeting place, a space open to the curiosity and charms of buyers, mainly women who love an exclusive style.
That was until the week of 9 March 2020, when everything changed in Italy and for Italians forever.
This was the week when the first lockdown was announced, and when stores, including Didì Dual Design, were forced to close without knowing when and under which conditions would they be allowed to reopen.
It was at this point that Manuela decided to react and overcome the obstacles, getting even closer to the digital and social world, becoming a virtuous example to inspire others.
This is her recipe for success.
How much have the Covid-19 restrictions influenced the store’s turnover?
The impact was tremendous. Although the entire retail sector has suffered a significant backlash from the lockouts imposed by the pandemic, the merchants in our area have been particularly stricken: Bra is a city that thrives on food and wine tourism that boosts other sectors of business. With the block to travel, the flow of visitors suddenly stopped and, along with it, the entire city’s livelihood was at stake. We experienced a lightning-fast, unexpected and unprecedented collapse.
Was it the world of e-commerce that helped you stay afloat in a time of great crisis?
Creating an e-commerce site was our first thought when we heard the news of the impending lockdown, but we immediately had to face the correlated difficulties: organising a digital showcase to sell online requires intense work, plus a significant commitment even just to take the photographic shots of the garments to be exhibited, and a significant economic investment, comparable to opening a brick and mortar store. To date, we have a section, within our website, where we sell some items, but it cannot be defined as real e-commerce.
What tools did you use to remain connected to customers, albeit remotely?
The first hook that allowed us to maintain daily contact with our customers was undoubtedly social media. We intensified our presence on Instagram and Facebook: we created stories where we communicated special offers, news to customers and showed new arrivals, even by wearing them. We often offer Instagram live shows where we showcase the garments worn, explain their characteristics, give suggestions for sizes, combinations and uses. We try to assist customers in their choices: the possibility of seeing an item of clothing on a moving body helps better understand than any static image and makes it easier to understand the outcomes on different physicalities. In short: thanks to the video I continue to put my passion for fashion and my twenty years of experience as a merchant to good use.
From communications to sales: how do you conclude an online purchase without an e-commerce site?
Through social media communication and the use of video commerce, we offer much more than a product for sale: we offer an experience.
We allow customers to still feel pampered, either by me or my assistants, as if they were really in the shop, to feel advised and coddled, to receive all the explanations they want, especially when it comes to buying an expensive garment.
However, after an explanation a purchase must ensue, otherwise, we risk investing time without a real economic return.
Initially, I tried using WhatsApp: I was contacted by customers, I organised video calls to present the products, but without the chance to finalise the transaction through the application, the sale was often inconclusive, despite the time spent.
Then I discovered ShopCall: thanks to an initiative by Ascom Bra (a local merchants association), which signed an agreement with the video shopping platform, I could try out the service. It has been a great help in bearing the brunt of the closures and the reduced influx of customers and tourists to the city. And it allowed me to discover every potential of this tool. ShopCall lets me integrate everything I need to communicate and sell, directly and comfortably into a single channel. With ShopCall I can interact with every single customer in a video call, assisting with their shopping and, having chosen the items of interest, I can immediately conclude the negotiation, complete with an integrated payment and shipping management system.
After many months of successful use, I can confirm this: ShopCall is a functional and effective tool, ideal for easily selling online, rediscovering the pleasure of serving and pampering the customer!