Pandemic induced changes in supply and demand impacted a wealth of manufacturers, often exposing key areas of weakness. However, in many instances, the pandemic spotlighted strengths as well. According to Hyatt Hodges, vice president of e-commerce with clothing manufacturer Dickies, the company has been fortunate that its business has only gotten stronger during the pandemic.
“Dickies is built to withstand a lot of twists and turns in the marketplace. Firstly, we credit the product. Many customers buy Dickies for functional reasons, and while it can also be a style statement, that functionality makes it more valuable. It’s a necessary work tool as much as it is clothing,” says Hodges. “Secondly, out of desire and now necessity, customers continue to move towards digital, where Dickies has a strong presence in online retailers in addition to our own website.”
Initially, Dickies was cautious with maintaining it normal production levels, like most major retailers and brands. “As the country reacted to the pandemic with stay-at-home orders and store closures, we saw exponential growth on our website and multichannel retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon, which made us realize that customers value Dickies differently than many other purely cosmetic apparel purchases,” says Hodges. “That knowledge gave us the confidence and opportunity to push production back to pre-pandemic levels.”
Fortunately, Dickies already had an established e-commerce position prior to the pandemic, allowing it to avoid some of the challenges that plagued the wider retail market. “The key to success was to thoughtfully reshuffle priorities while ensuring that long term plans were not abandoned,” says Hodges. “We stayed focused on projects already in motion and relied on our system integrator, Ignition Commerce, for projects where we needed to bring in external help. Maintaining focus on integrating Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Commerce Cloud and enhancing our B2B efforts has helped us ensure that our original 2021 goals are still attainable.”
Hodges tells IndustryWeek Dickies continues to strengthen its digital engagement with the customer across the organization because it knows that not only are consumers transacting online, “they’re also communicating with each other and the brand through social media, product reviews and more,” says Hodges. “We want customers to not only buy Dickies, but build a deep relationship with us and become a loyal follower of the brand.”
Democratized price points play a pivotal role in success at Dickies. “Our product is priced accessibly and available to everyone, and that’s in addition to its already established reputation for its durability and functionality,” says Hodges. “Additionally, Ignition Commerce helped us integrate the e-commerce site into both our product information management (PIM) and email marketing solution which gave us greater visibility into product and customer data across multiple systems. This build has us well-positioned achieve a priority 2021 initiative to leverage data in order to understand our customers’ journey throughout the entire shopping and supply chain experience.”
Dickies has invested heavily in technology that serves its business customers in a way that matches specific shopping patterns and developing creative ways for identifying B2B shoppers and directing them to a transaction flow that matches what a typical vendor portal would offer.
“For our traditional customers, we implemented a return merchandise authorization (RMA) with our system integrator that has allowed us to process returns far more efficiently. We received a lot of positive feedback from both our customers, who can now generate their own RMA labels, and our warehouse workers, who process returns with significantly more efficiency,” says Hodges. “We expect the customer to keep up with their desire to purchase products online. Customers have spent almost a full year relying on the internet for news, health-related information, digital entertainment and shopping. The pandemic accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and triggered changes in our online shopping behaviors that will affect our e-commerce strategies for the next decade.”