Le New Black: First of all, how is IKKS going during this year of crisis? How did the team got organised for these very special sales campaigns?
Valérie Dassier: It is for us a year of “ultra-flexibility” and “ultra-adaptability”. We permanently reinvented ourselves along with the different announcements, store closing, reopening, curfew, gauge in stores, etc. In a company, you have many rituals, and those rituals have all disappeared: seasonal campaigns launch, promotions, opening times etc. Even with all these changes in only one year, our teams have been incredibly mobilised and agile. We took important strategic decisions very quickly, like reducing our volumes of stocks without canceling orders following our CSR approach with our suppliers. We transferred some products to next season, made more pre-manufacturing, reviewed the trade planning etc. Globally, our results are higher than the expectations made from different hypotheses along the crisis. IKKS just achieved two years of rapid growth so I think we have been particularly strong in struggling fashion industry.
We now project ourselves in 2021: how will Covid-19 impact us again? Will it be only during the first semester? Agility became a ritual in itself, it allowed us to create projects we would not have realised otherwise, for example, a live stream on our website. Omnichannel was already a strong asset at IKKS, and we developed new services such as tools to take appointments at the store, visio-shopping etc. We also thought about dividing our collection to have arrivals more regularly, as ordering in advance can become a real handicap. We learn lessons from the crisis to build something positive!
LNB: You recently chose Le New Black to digitise IKKS showroom, can you tell us more about your strategy for wholesale to face the current crisis?
VD: Wholesale has been hit for two main reasons: with Italy, China and India confined, all our suppliers have not been able to deliver, creating samples for our retailers was late, the machine actually stopped. Then for our retailers, who own their stores most of the time, having to close for more than two months led to a huge loss of income. We, therefore, found facilities for our partners, suppliers, or clients. We maintain a permanent relationship with them, for example with a communication campaign as we did for our B2C clients. Then we had to find a way to sell the collections with fewer samples than usual, and without sales managers traveling: this is when we realised we needed a digital tool to support this approach.
“We, therefore, chose Le New Black to give to our professional buyers a direct access to our offer, and rituals of digital communication, including video contents to tell our story."
We had to produce visuals earlier and in a very short period of time for our digital BtoB showroom, with still life to help compare the size of our bags for example. There is a difference with the B2C customer though, the B2B buyer knows what we mean when we talk about the quality of our leather, as he has previously touched it and has more specific knowledge.
LNB: If you had a magic wand, what more would you expect from a tool such as Le New Black?
VD: We think that the tool today is very good. We chose it because it allows brands to have a B2B website that is as close as possible to a B2C website, and therefore to have strong branding. We would love to use interactive videos on Le New Black, and use it as the only B2B sales tool gathering all our B2B communication tools as well: a video meeting on the platform, show the product details when the sales manager present them through the camera etc. We could also push forward the live analytics: recommend products in the basket of my buyer, notifications about the activity of my buyer etc.
“Tools such as Le New Black are for us a great experience and we would like it to become the unique point of contact between buyers, sales managers, stylists etc."
LNB: What is the role of content production for the B2B client experience?
VD: At the moment we have common BtoBtoC tools, but for B2B we added videos on which our stylists invest a lot to tell the story of the collection and of the products. It is important to introduce our BtoB buyer to IKKS universe, and it also gives to our sales managers more material to present the collection, tell the story of the brand etc. For the moment we do not have plans to use holograms, but who knows! Maybe for BtoC!
LNB: What deep transformations is the wholesale market going through and that you could already observe?
VD: I think the strong wholesale digitisation is the consequence of the last ten years. Tools such as Le New Black are for us a great experience and we would like it to become the unique point of contact between buyers, sales managers, stylists etc. Or course, digital tools will never remove human relations: ten years ago, it was already a common belief that digital will kill physical retail, it never happened and our retail director even has his own hashtag: #retailisnotdead! It is the same with the B2B client, who is also a store manager. You have to tell him/ her a story and it can’t be always behind a screen. Our sales team work with retailers for years, and they really built a close relationship. But the digitisation of wholesale allows this very traditional industry to enter an era of ultra-flexibility that helps buyers to engage less early and buy more regularly.