Since the fulfilment of the American dream of GANT’s founders nearly seventy years, ago, the company has grown into a global brand. In this interview with Swana Walters from GANT Germany you will learn how the company is adapting to the ultra-dynamic online and retail reality without discarding its heritage.
[Paulina, EC] You work as Marketing Manager eCommerce at GANT Germany, a branch of an American lifestyle brand offering premium clothing, accessories and home furnishings for men, women and kids. The history of the company started in 1949, but when and why exactly did GANT start to sell online?
[Swana Walters, Gant] In Germany, we started our online business with our own online shop de.gant.com at the end of February in 2013. So we’ll celebrate our jubilee of five years in 2018.
Looking at GANT’s sales figures (both, globally and in Germany alone), how much of your sales comes from your online presence?
Actually, I am only allowed to speak about the German performance. We noticed, especially in the last two years, a huge increase of online sales. However, we will not abstain from our retail stores. Although our online business is really successful I think that there’ll be a progress of an increasing conflation of online and retail.
You have your own online shops, but you also sell on third-party marketplaces such as Zalando. Why is it important for a brand to be available in different places online? Does it mean that even such a big, global brand such as GANT cannot rely on its custom online shops only? Why is that?
That’s quite simple. It’s important for a brand to be omnipresent. Because of that we are able to target different customer groups and intensify our online presence.
GANT is present in over 70 markets, 750 stores and 4,000 selected retailers. These all are located in very diverse markets such as the USA, the UK, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Germany, to name just a few. How different are your online customers from these countries? Can you see any specific patterns of preferences or behaviour among them?
Surely, there is a difference between the German customers and customers from the Asian countries. Mainly, this focuses on the different preferences concerning the visual communication. In general, it’s possible to compare the behaviours of the European shoppers. There’s always the need for simplicity regarding the handling of the menu, check out etc. of the online shop to generate a great shopping experience for our customers.
As a global company, how do you work out best ways to target your customers online locally, that is, in each of the diverse markets? Is there a global brand sales strategy that you have to accommodate to the individual market requirements?
Of course, there exists a global sales strategy. We adopt this strategy and match it to the German market. We are working with different ad services such as retargeting, affiliate, SEA and SEO and Social Media Ads.
How do you know which methods of targeting the customers are most successful in a given market? Do you exchange your experiences with colleagues from GANT working on other markets?
We are in steady communication with our global HQ in Stockholm. Especially, when there are brand campaigns, we are planning and discussing the online presence in advance. After that we are always doing a debriefing about all assets and actions that were used which I think is really important for optimizing the presence of further campaigns.
Would it be possible for you to share an experience when GANT’s eCommerce strategy or a marketing project developed in one market has been particularly successfully (or unsuccessfully) planted onto another market? Is there any specific success or failure story that you could share with our readers?
We had a quite huge brand campaign at the end of 2015 that focused on our history as a shirtmaker. Spreading globally and using a lot of different BTL and ATL advertising efforts, we were able to strengthen our image as the shirtmaker in all markets. But to be honest, there’ll be an almost bigger marketing brand campaign that will start in October this year. So stay tuned for the upcoming campaign ;-)
For quite some time so far, selling to China has been a hot topic in the European eCommerce. Since GANT is available there too, I must ask this question: what experiences does your company have on the Chinese market? Be that a stereotype or not, especially in terms of clothing, China is perceived as a market flooded by low-quality cheap products. GANT, on the other hand, offers premium products.
Of course, there does exist a large social divide in China. On the one hand, I agree that low-quality products are a huge topic, but on the other hand there do also exist the typical GANT customers who prefer premium quality and are willing to pay for it. Even so, China isn’t one of the focus markets for the brand yet.
Let’s get back to the wider perspective: what are the key players – and your main competitors – in your industry sector (both, globally and in Europe). What is your current industry position?
Selling Lifestyle American Sportswear our competitors are brands as Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc O’Polo and also the premium sector such as Hugo Boss. In Germany, we are currently working to establish GANT as a brand as well-known as it is in Sweden.
In your opinion, at the moment, what is the hardest part of selling online for such a big brand as GANT? Have you noticed any specific new challenges that have recently arisen in the clothing sector?
As everywhere in the retail and fashion business, we noticed the rising customer need for variety and being offered something special. It’s no more just selling products and fashion, today it is all about selling experiences. So we set ourselves the task of providing our customer with a unique shopping experience online as well as in our stores. For instance, we host different events in our stores such as flower workshops which is a cooperation with bloomon, or gin tasting.
Let us focus a bit on Germany alone. Your position at GANT Germany is definitely a very demanding one. How is the brand doing in the German eCommerce? How would you describe this market based on your experiences? What do you perceive as the most difficult part of your job?
We are really successful with our online business in Germany, so we are satisfied and happy about that. The market is really fast-moving, so it’s important for us to catch up with the newest trends and developments of the industry. There are so many digital opportunities that it is hard for us to prioritise. But we are confident to widen our online activities and advertising efforts in the future.