The world of Retail, and especially that of fashion, is one of those that has suffered the most, and continues to suffer the impact of the pandemic caused by COVID-19. Due to the first, forced closure of physical establishments during confinement, followed by all the capacity limit measures, electronic commerce has been the lifeline of fashion companies that could, and still can, continue to operate to provide services to his clients. In this interview we talk in depth with Clemente Cebrián, Co-founder, already Andres Fernandez, director of digital and systems The Goose, a Spanish fashion brand born in 2004 and which has already become a benchmark in the sector in Spain. Clemente explains the importance of ecommerce in the company, which already represents 25% of total turnover, how they faced the hard days of confinement and the impact it had on the company, how their e-commerce could “save” those moments and how omnichannel has become an obligation rather than a necessity.
Ecommerce News (EcN): Sometime speaking years ago we commented that ecommerce has always been a key pillar for El Ganso. What is the current status of your online channel?
Clemente Cebrián (CC): We bet on the online channel practically from the beginning of the company, at the beginning in a very manual way. Afterwards, we always continue betting on the digital channel until we make it a fundamental pillar for El Ganso.
Before the pandemic and the entire crisis generated by COVID-19, in El Ganso we had as a goal for the year 2023 that the online channel would account for 20% of the company’s total sales, a figure that we have already exceeded. The truth is that the pandemic caught us with our homework in this regard.
EcN: How did the confinement affect a company like El Ganso with such a physical presence?
DC: In March when the lockdown came, it was a very nervous moment. We had to close 150 points of sale, and that’s when the online channel can be said to have saved our furniture.
Andrés Fernández (AF): Indeed, ecommerce saved our furniture at that time. It was a moment that no one had ever lived. With the forced closure of all physical stores we put all the forces in our online store. Thus, we came up with some ideas to promote it as The Community project. Another strategy that we decided to implement was to use our stores as warehouses, and from there to manage and take out orders. We were also able to do an “online market”, with stock that we stored from previous seasons. This market was in a physical space and fortunately we connected it to the online platform and thereby increase sales.
Also, to adapt to the peaks of demand during those dates we use the auto scaling service that what it does is auto-scale the services automatically when we have traffic peaks. This worked very well for us and dynamically.
EcN: What are the current figures for El Ganso’s online channel?
AF: Right now ecommerce already represents 25% of the company’s total sales, which are around 10 million euros. Compared to the previous year, we were able to grow 60%, so we are very happy. And it is that as Clemente said before, our objective was to reach 25% in 2023 and we have reached that figure much earlier.
EcN: What pillars would you say have been fundamental to achieve this growth of the company’s digital channel?
DC: The key to everything has been to consider the online channel as something strategic, almost cultural, I would say. And of course have a good team.
AF: That is, a good team is essential. If you don’t hire talent in this sector, you are lost, and we have learned that if we hire great professionals, the results come. As we spoke before, before the pandemic we were betting on the digital business and hired a very powerful team, which we have then expanded.
Another fundamental pillar I would say is the website itself. We wanted it to be simple, but fast at the same time. We do not want a website with twisted things, with ornaments and many functionalities, but something basic, which promotes an agile and simple sale. We have bet and put a lot of effort in having a website that was fast. And day by day we keep improving it, trying to make it better and better.
EcN: What goals have you set for yourself in the medium and long term in your digital strategy?
DC: That 25% of turnover that we already have in the online channel, in January of this year has become 30%. It is only a month and there is much left, but it is a sample of the potential that we can achieve. The great challenge we face is for physical stores and corners to resume growth levels prior to the pandemic, and not only to maintain that 25% of ecommerce weight in the company, but to increase it and reach 30%.
But beyond that, the great challenge we have is to promote the integration of our on and off channels. With all this situation we are seeing more and more how products come out of the stores for online customers, how products are returned in the physical stores that have been purchased online, how products purchased online are collected in the store. We really have our online and offline channels fully integrated and the great cultural challenge we have is that customers see us as a single company.
EcN: What are the results of this commitment to omnichannel? How do you try to stimulate and enhance this?
AF: As Clemente mentioned before, our online and offline channels are fully integrated now. What our customers use the most are the options to buy online and collect in store, or make returns there. Then once they are there they always buy other products, and this is something we want to encourage.
We also have a loyalty program from practically the beginning of the company, which together with the mobile app we want to improve so that from there we can build better loyalty, offer more offers, etc.
DC: One trend that we are seeing is that the traffic in the points has dropped a lot due to the current situation, and instead the conversion has increased. People who enter the store come to buy. That there are no crowds, when people go to pick something up, the shop assistants can dedicate more time to it.
EcN: What projects do you have at the moment or are you working on?
DC: Due to the current situation, with the limitation of hours or total closings of stores, we are working on a project in which we keep part of the store staff so that they can manage and prepare orders online. Something that causes us not to send more people to ERTES.
Now we can tell you that we are going to take a step further and that is that we are going to offer that staff that we maintain in the stores so that through video calls they can serve customers.
AF: Effectively. We want that from the online store itself you can maintain a direct connection with the staff that is in the store, and so if you have any questions, or want to see a product, they can help you. A much more personalized attention, in short. We are currently in the testing phase, but in a few weeks we want it to be active.
EcN: El Ganso is a brand with a very important presence and recognition. How does the online channel help when it comes to positioning and branding the company?
DC: This is one of the key points for El Ganso. Because of course you have to work on the points of sale, the shop windows, the products, the customer service, but we are also seeing that we can build a lot of El Ganso brand from the digital channel. And by digital channel I mean the online store as well as social networks, which is an opportunity for very good brands.
In fact, for example, campaigns or photo sessions, where they have their greatest expression and development is through digital.
EcN: What online media works best for El Ganso?
AF: Social networks, on Instagram and Facebook, work very well. The advertising we do there is the one that converts the most. We also invest in SEO and Google Shopping but as I say, social networks are the ones that work best for us.
EcN: On this topic of social networks, influencers are gaining more and more weight. Do you work or have you worked with them? What results have they given you?
DC: In this sense, we have not yet exploited influencers much. We have done specific things with some of them, such as when we launched El Ganso perfumes. But the truth is that we are a brand that is not characterized by constantly working with influencers.
EcN: You talked before you wanted to bet more on the mobile app. What figures do you have in this channel for both traffic and conversion?
AF: In terms of traffic, 80% of what we have already comes from mobile devices, so it really is the most used channel. We are going to renew the app shortly to adapt it to the new iOs and Android, but we have in mind to update it to enhance the new loyalty channel and its new functionalities. It is something that we want to take great care of because we see the potential it has.