Campaign India Team
Nov 20, 2015

‘Marketing is a good idea but it can only do so much’

Richa Kar, CEO,, on the lingerie category finding its space online, winning women over, and not asking the consumer to ‘’

‘Marketing is a good idea but it can only do so much’
Can you briefly describe Zivame’s journey for us? 
Zivame started with the observation that lingerie buying being such an intimate and a necessary purchase, the experience was so poor and the thought, ‘Can we change that?’ It started with making the category a lot more respectful as an experience. I thought, as women we have had to undergo a lot of embarrassment, judgment, discomfort when we go out to buy lingerie.
Today, what we are saying is, ‘Can Zivame be a part of building the confidence of a woman?’ We feel that as a brand and as a company, we can understand women intimately. We feel that Zivame is a partner, a close confidante for women who makes them feel empowered,  liberated and confident. We’ve gone from making the experience feel joyful to helping in building the confidence of a woman.
Online lingerie retail is a very small segment. Where does competition mainly come from for you considering there are the brick and mortar stores still catering to the mass market (retailing both international brands as well as homegrown ones) who also are developing strong online presence? This is in addition to other online competitors.
Our competition currently is mainly brick and mortar stores as women still go to stores to buy lingerie. At our end, we’re trying to understand why would she still go there given that it is more comfortable to buy, say, something like a lacy bra or a sheer bra with anonymity and within the privacy of home rather than buying it at a store. What are we not providing? 
People have been buying online and that culture is good because it means that people will be shopping at Zivame as well sooner or later. 
We hope the consumers find the experience we give them to be superior. We’ve built an all-women customer relations team, the fit consultations, product assessment that we carry out is wonderful. We allow for returns etc. When they want to come to the authority in lingerie, people who can advise them, help them, they can come to Zivame. We want people to experience Zivame
to find out how liberating it is to shop for intimate wear online. 
What is the sales share of own labels to other brands on the portal?
The combined sale share of Penny and CouCou is 60 per cent.
Zivame under Penny also retails fashion accessories. Is this a vertical that will see additions in the future? 
Fashion accessories from Penny are a part of a limited edition range which is women-beachwear. It isn’t a new accessory category.
We still have a lot of ground to gain in just being a lingerie retailer with our focus being on getting women to experience the brand. The market potential that we’re seeing is huge. 
Is there a seasonality of sales observed in the category, online? If yes, which is the peak season online? 
No, there isn’t a seasonality of sales for us. We have definitely seen growth over the years because the business is growing. But we’ve not seen seasonality in particular. 
We expect Valentine’s Day to be a ‘season’ but men in India haven’t started gifting lingerie, yet. It will take some time for that to happen.  
Is there a metro/non-metro skew in terms of (i) traffic and (ii) sales?
Thirty per cent of the revenue comes from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. 
Sixty five per cent of traffic comes from mobile with forty five per cent transactions being made through mobile.
This is interesting as you wouldn’t think that such a percentage of sales could come from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. This only means that women have started to explore lingerie.
Zivame is launching a ‘Fitting Lounge’ in Bengaluru and plans to have more over the years… 
We’re in the process of having a Fitting Lounge, may be in a month’s time, in Bengaluru. We’re focused on that right now. If it does well we plan to have more such lounges across the country.
We haven’t shortlisted the other locations yet. 
The whole idea is to have women experience this category where we can help them understand their body, their shape and recommend them something that will fit them and boost their confidence as well. The negative connotation to lingerie shopping that women have had to endure has been taken away and now she has started to look at the category in a much positive way.
Privacy combined with consultation is a key plus for women when buying lingerie online. What traction has the fit consultation service seen?
Privacy combined with consultation and actually having merchandise that will support that is a big plus for women shopping for lingerie online. I can always tell someone that she is petite, but if I don’t have a product that a petite woman needs then what’s the point? A very strong product strategy is what gets people to Zivame.
This is where the fit consultation service comes in because we believe that a lot of sizes that we have are not even available in the offline space. Indian women have not explored lingerie. Can we awaken the category in the minds of the consumer? They’ve been buying the same type of bras always or they have misconceptions about say, the underwire etc. You want the consumers to fit into different styles and see how that shapes their bodies and what it does to their confidence. This is something that cannot be put online completely which is why we have this service. 
Right now, we have consultations over phone where you can talk to fit advisors and they will guide you through your body shape, body type and recommend the best products to you. If you don’t like the product we’ll obviously pick it up but then we’ll know which problem to address and can help the consumer shop better. Close to 25 per cent of the calls we get are about fit.   
Pan-India, in terms of demographics, what does Zivame’s customer base look like currently? How has this changed since 2011?  
We started small and it is too soon for us to register a change in demographic. We have customers from 18 to 65 years. That hasn’t changed at all. People certainly have started shopping more for lingerie. The mindset has changed. People no longer view lingerie as ‘why spend on something that is on the inside’ and are willing to explore. 
Not the demographic, but our interaction with our consumers has evolved. We had launched a range of minimisers. It is a very specialised product and the way it has sold has absolutely surprised us. People have written to us sharing their experiences talking about how in a store they would feel shy asking for something in their sizes or the product they wanted wasn’t available. That change in interaction, the feedback, from a consumer base not being catered to by offline stores is one of the changes we’ve seen since we started out.   
Social media engagement aside, Zivame has had two TVCs (not counting the ‘Did you know?’ videos) across two years. What’s the brand’s communication and engagement strategy?
We don’t want to have 10 communication messages to get people to come to Zivame. Marketing is a good idea but it can only do so much. Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is when a woman puts on one of our products and she feels good. Your size, variety can be very vast, your customer relations can be very polite, you can do fantastic marketing, but the moment of truth is when a woman tries the product on.
We’ve put that as our most important metric. We’re not about launching 500 campaigns. If you know about us, very good, how can we help you? For example, the latest campaign of ours urges women to discover themselves inside out and to celebrate their relationship with their lingerie and that’s a very powerful thought and it has nothing to do with Zivame as such.
Being a woman, if somebody keeps telling me to ‘…’ I won’t buy. It is about striking a relationship with a woman. If we’re able to do that then we’re successful.
Zivame recently launched an app. How has the response to that been? 
We’ve been surprised to see how people are downloading the app organically. The app experience, obviously, is much better given that it is even more private than a desktop or a laptop. A woman will not want to share a screen space with somebody when she is browsing for intimate wear, be it an office laptop or the home computer. There is a certain amount of privacy that you need and the app does it very well. 
Given that it has launched just about a month ago, it will take us some time to say whether there is a metro shift etc. in terms of where the app downloads are coming from. The app transactions are increasing because our category renders itself very well to personal devices.
What does the Zivame team presence currently look like?
Zivame has its head office based in Bengaluru and it’s a team of 250 people there. The staff is a mix of male and female employees and the organisation comes across as extremely diverse with around 50 per cent of its workforce being men.
Are there any plans to start delivering internationally in the future?
We have certainly received a lot of requests for it. We’re still thinking about it because our hands are full right now. The Indian market itself is huge and we have a lot to do so we’ll need to figure out what could be the right time for this.
In the auto category, it is common to see consumers researching online, and making their choices, before visiting showrooms to test drive and then buy? What are the learnings on the consumer purchase journey for since inception? How has the journey changed?
For any business to be successful, you need to figure what the barriers are for the consumer to be able to experience your brand. That’s one thing that we try to understand as a process – talk more to the consumer, understand their concerns. 
We’ve had challenges where the consumers didn’t understand their size simply because they hadn’t tried those sizes before or didn’t know those sizes could be available to them. 
We realised that most plus-sized women were not getting the right fit with the brands that were already there when we came in. To address this, we launched a designer range that only caters to plus-sized women.
What we also learned that whenever a woman calls up Zivame, she wants to hear a woman’s voice at the other end, which led us to having an all-women consulting team. This insight came from market research. We understood that a woman calling us is already feeling a little nervous so our job then was to try and be a lot more friendly and consultative and make her feel that she has come to a private space. So all of this considered, why will a woman not want to experience Zivame when we are able to provide a superior experience than what she is getting elsewhere? Shopping with us will happen by virtue of the category proposition that we are building.  
(This article first appeared in the 30 October issue of Campaign India)
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