On tapping into the omnichannel opportunity
“When it comes to handling the pandemic, it boils down to two key things at the end of the day. First, is rethinking the channel mix. I think it’s important for all retailers to really think about your omnichannel strategy. It’s not a buzzword anymore, it is survival. Think about your e-commerce distribution. What is the infrastructure that you need to have in place to ensure that you’re able to search your inventory seamlessly, between offline to online?
Second, is around assortment. This is where having full control of our value chain – being entirely direct-to-consumer, where we have the design teams, we own the merchandise and the assortment – allows us to pivot. Just three or four years ago, we were predominantly a workwear brand. But of course, with the pandemic, we work from home, and even the definition of workwear is changing.
We started investing a lot more in loungewear, we started investing a lot more in casuals and we started changing how we thought about the design of workwear. It’s more Zoom-appropriate outfits, right? From thinking about bottoms, it’s perhaps more just thinking about tops. Do we have the right blazers?”
On using technology to improve the customer experience
“We use artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout the process. First when it comes to the design process, we are using it for the end product. Before you get to anything fancy with algorithms or recommendations, it really starts at the core: are we tracking the right attributes? Are we tracking the right amount of data, is it all coming from one source of truth in our data warehouse? Today, we are doing that. We track over 100 different attributes across all of our styles, so that we can better understand what’s working, what’s not, to be a lot more preemptive.
Another way we leverage that data is we try to build a customer profile that’s not just about transactional information, but really about what we understand about her from a life stage standpoint, from a psychographic standpoint? We do this with our loyalty program that reflects many different signals, for example, what life stage is she in? Is she planning for motherhood? Because a lot of times, purchase decisions actually change, and we take all these different attributes to then tie in to our recommendation for our customer.
It’s not just about data science, it’s not just about AI, but a lot of times, there are even lower tech ways to provide a good experience. I’ll give one example. In our stores in Singapore, it’s always very crowded, and there’s always a long line. We asked ourselves, ‘Hey, can we improve the shopping experience for our customer so she’s not waiting in line? Can she go have a cup of coffee, or can she browse around the shop floor and we can let her know when the [change] room is ready?’
We took a leaf out of the FMCG [handbook], where a lot of the Korean barbecue restaurants especially have a queue ticketing system outside. That’s not expensive, it’s not high tech. But it’s an example of a really thoughtful technology application that we rolled out in our stores.”
On being a fashion brand for life
“At Love, Bonito, our mission is around empowering the everyday Asian woman by providing a platform for them to really discover themselves. When we think about our vision and mission, it’s not just about marketing, it’s not just about the campaigns that we put out. It really comes to assortment first. For example, we know that there are some core differences in terms of sizing proportions, so can we provide sizing and proportions that are very unique and specific and tailored to the Asian consumer in the markets that we’re serving?
Beyond that, it’s also about providing assortment across different life stages. If you’re fresh out of school, you might be looking for workwear, but it has to be more affordable. And then, when you get into the workforce, it’s a little bit different; you can spend a little bit more. And then, when you’re going through key life moments, for example, getting married, where we have bridesmaids collections, or getting pregnant, where we have maternity and kids [clothing].
We take it a step further as well, where we know that you might feel a little more bloated at a certain time of the month, and a lot of times, our clothing doesn’t take us through that. So we think about things like adjustable top straps, and pants that are a little more adjustable.
At the end of the day, it’s really about retaining the customer that you’re bringing through the funnel. What’s quite interesting is that 30 per cent of our customers who made their first purchase with us 10 years ago, are in fact, still actively shopping with us right now. Meaning they’re making on average, three to four purchases a year.”