In 2021, Havaianas switched its wholesale selling season entirely digitally, practically eliminating all physical samples. The move to digitalisation was accelerated due to Covid-19, but for the near sixty-year-old brand, it is was an important step to drive a more efficient, more resilient and more sustainable fashion value chain.
To find out more about the Havaianas journey to digitalisation, FashionUnited chatted to Havaianas marketing director Merel Werners: on how the brand has embraced a virtual showroom, its innovative chatbot Iana, its NFT debut, and what is next for the company.
Havaianas was one of the first to embrace virtual showrooms to streamline its wholesale operations - why was digitalisation an important move for the brand?
We had been discussing the idea of using a virtual showroom for quite some time before the pandemic happened. Last year, as everyone we faced some production challenges in our factories back in Brazil so we knew it was now or never. The sell-in season was approaching so we had to find our solution to our production challenges, so it was the perfect time to implement an idea that had been running through our heads for a long time. It was important for us, not only to meet our challenges but to take the opportunity to grow and innovate as a brand.
We implemented the Hatch showroom, the best in the market, in a record eight weeks. It was a true team effort from both companies, everyone held hands and embraced the change and challenge. And believe it or not, we had the best sell in campaign ever!
Since partnering with Hatch for your digital showroom, how have you used it for your 2021/22 selling?
Hatch has been our digital showroom since last year and is definitely here to stay. As I mentioned last year, due to the pandemic and the restrictions it was a matter of training up our 100+ sales team, implement and activate. The tool was mostly used for remote selling since we could not visit many customers.
This year, for our spring/summer 2022 campaign, we worked closely with the Hatch team to improve and expand certain features of the tool that have made it even more useful and intuitive than last year.
The flexibility built into the digital showroom software allowed us to conduct remote appointments with customers; provided an effective sales process that also incorporated the brand’s storytelling; and removed the need for multiple wholesale selling tools and software. By removing the need for physical samples, the platform improved speed to market, enabling us to give customers what they want faster than ever before and better optimise their assortments. We now also use the tool when the customer is physically in the showroom both for story telling as well as sales and we have a seamless transition between Hatch and our B2B that means no need to double things up.
We have also brought back some physical samples (innovations and new technology) in order to have the right balance between digital and physical experience. During the sell in campaign product is king and key so to be able to show some newness physically has been very much appreciated by our customers
Has switching to digital also helped to make the brand more sustainable?
Yes, definitely. We as a brand are committed to finding new ways in which we can be more sustainable and the use of a digital showroom allowed us to find a new way of selling without the need for physical samples, this itself is a great step towards a more sustainable way of working.
Even though we reuse 100 percent of the waste from the production, there is always a great quantity of rubber used in the samples we send out to our markets, so being able to reduce the production of physical samples has helped us with our goal of becoming a more sustainable brand.
How have your customers embraced the new technology?
Just as it happened with our agents, some of our customers were also nervous about the idea of changing to a digital showroom. Especially in traditional markets like Italy or Spain, there was a lot of hesitations at the beginning, change is always challenging. But once our agents started doing the online visits and showing all of the great features from the platform to our customers, they quickly saw how much this improved the process of buying with Havaianas and ended up adapting quite fast. I don't think there is one agent or sales manager who wants to go back to how we worked pre pandemic.
Have there been any challenges in the digitalisation of Havaianas when it comes to showing the brands’ free-spirited nature and colour?
Actually, we have been very impressed by the combination of technology and the human touch of the Hatch team, this has helped us feel very aligned with our brand values. Hatch puts the brand first in a digital way and have really understood the brand’s storytelling so the digital showroom feels completely Havaianas.
In the beginning of 2021 we launched our new Havaianas brand positioning with our new tagline designed for a free life. With this we started implementing our new Visual Brand Identity both in a physical and digital way. The buzz words are colour, happiness, freedom and they have been amazingly captured in this new identity, both with static images as well as videos. So whether we run a social ad on Instagram, set up a new corner in El Corte Ingles or Galeries Lafayette or dress our windows of our 100+ mono-brand points of sale, we use the elements of the new visual brand identity to give live to our positioning and brand and people feel our brand DNA completely.
Havaianas has also launched a Chatbot - can you tell me about Iana and how she supports the company’s strategy?
Iana, our chatbot persona half robot half mermaid, is the brand digital assistant focused in making the relation with the brand fun and easy. Nowadays she's able to respond to more than 300 questions and learns every day, about our consumers, their desires, challenges and tastes, thanks to AI and the continuous training. Anything you need, Iana will help you but in case she does not have the answer she will always facilitate the transfer to her human peers.
She has a strong personality that shows Havaianas core values; she's open minded, positive, relaxed and easy going and beyond being the biggest Havaianas fan, she's focused in connecting with our users building a close relation with them. To us every user is gold and we want them to feel welcomed, heard and considered this is why Iana is always asking for feedback, she wants to evolve and meet our users expectations.
What benefits have you seen from using Iana?
We welcomed Iana to our website (www.havaianas-store.com) in December last year and since then she has learnt 4 different languages (English, Italian, Spanish and French) and been able to respond to 98.8 percent of queries, a total success!
The biggest benefit so far has been creating conversations with our users, being able to listen directly to their concerns and frustrations so we can detect the areas of improvement and put actions plan to work on them. Another brilliant task she has is accompany our users through our product catalogue displaying pictures and product carrousels, supporting brand commercial strategy and ensuring none goes hands empty, she wants every person to enjoy their Havaianas, she's the best sales advisor.
What’s next for Iana?
We have big plans for Iana! Very soon she'll become a 3D persona and will start being present in all our digital channels becoming the personal assistant to guide our users through our product catalogue with focus on cross and up selling. She will be able to give more personalised information and respond in WhatsApp and Facebook messenger and she will be able to understand voice messages and respond to them, all ready for any user profile!
Her main objective in the short term will be to grant a seamless journey through all the key contact points of users with the brand. The sky is the limit and we are ready to embrace all the challenges that may come or way.
Havaianas made its NFT debut earlier this year - why did you decide to enter that market with an art collaboration?
We had been seeing the increasing NFT trend for art, collectibles and sneakers since the beginning of the year, so we saw a big opportunity to jump into it in an authentic way as art is part of the history of Havaianas. For many years now we have collaborated with artists and graphic designers whether as a canvas (thru prints on our products) or in our advertising campaigns to create special collections designed by them. So, it only made sense to us to join this conversation. We called up a friend of the brand, Adhemas Batista, who actually designed the first Havaianas website who loved to collaborate again and created 5 unique NFT´s that we called ´Felicidade´ which means Happiness in Portuguese.
We thought it was a great way to integrate the art angle to a different type of collection while also giving back to our communities in Brazil and creating a meaningful story. 7% of all the net profits from the NFT collection went to Favela Galeria, an open-air Art Museum located on the east side of São Paulo, a neighbourhood that still is home to many underprivileged people, but bursts with art, especially graffiti.
What’s next for Havaianas in its digitalisation strategy?
Our vision is to become a true lifestyle brand that inspires freedom. In the EMEA region this means that by 2026, 60 percent of our brand will be sold online. Creating that emotional connection with the consumers of happiness, colour and freedom will require stepping up in terms of creating the best digital experience in all we do. From how one navigates our webstore, to the experience on our social channels and shopping on one of our partner websites. Offering the right assets in a consistent way is the job of our marketers and agencies and we always have to find the right balance between brand and business, between digital and physical between creating awareness and staying cool.
Read more about Havaianas on the brandpage: fashionunited.com/companies/havaianas