Retailers and brands sound off on the rise of luxury malls, e-commerce, social media and more.
1. Luxury Mall Boom
While high-street shopping destinations such as São Paulo’s Rua Oscar Freire are still thriving, consumers are increasingly looking to malls for their convenience and variety, not to mention enhanced security — an ongoing concern in the country.
Luxury hot spot São Paulo is home to two large multibrand shopping malls: Shopping Cidade Jardim and Iguatemi São Paulo. The latter holds an especially impressive number of high-end footwear stores, including Christian Louboutin and Salvatore Ferragamo, among others, as well as Brazilian brands such as Alexandre Birman.
A rising trend at these malls is a pay-by-installments option, which is unique to the Brazilian market. “Since the cost of [goods] is so high in Brazil, all of the stores sell in installments,” said Birman. “When you swipe your credit card, they ask you how many times you want to pay. There is no interest rate on that.”
Iguatemi CEO Carlos Jereissati said footwear consumers are also embracing the shopping-mall format due to wider selections of stock and sizes. “Service is especially important in the footwear arena, as customers prefer to try on shoes before making purchases,” he said. “The main advantage of shopping at the mall is that you can check the quality of the brand and its products very closely,” added Cristiano Rodriguez, creative director of Zeferino, which is carried in Iguatemi São Paulo.
2. The Rise of E-Tailing
A new crop of e-commerce websites is catering to Brazilian consumers. While shopping malls have their own appeal, shoppers in Brazil also favor the click-and-deliver approach.
Farfetch — an e-commerce site that partners with Brazilian boutiques — curates a selection of the stores’ products and then broadcasts them to a global online audience. The site’s aim is not to divert customers from shopping Brazilian stores, but rather to enhance their buying experience.
“Although an increasing number of customers are shopping online, they will always enjoy the brick-and-mortar experience,” said Taleeb Noormohamed, Farfetch’s chief growth officer. “What Farfetch shows is that you must blend the physical experience with the digital — both sides must co-exist to strengthen each other.”
Due to its local partnerships with boutiques, Farfetch carries an assortment of Brazilian footwear brands, including Schutz, Sarah Chofakian and Luiza Barcelos — labels that have also invested in their own e-commerce businesses as well.
Another player in Brazilian e-commerce is Gallerist, a blog-meets-shop that displays its latest products as editorial spreads. Amazon Brazil is also growing, though it has yet to carry a large fashion assortment.
New concept retailers have emerged as well. “A good example is Netshoes,” said Alexis Frick, a research manager for Brazil at Euromonitor International. “They opened a brick-and-mortar outlet, but to purchase something, you use a tablet in the store.”
3. The What’s App Phenomenon
Brazilian footwear brands are increasingly embracing What’s App to communicate with customers. The cross-platform messaging app — which lets users text data, versus SMS — allows easy messaging between phones such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone or Nokia. To use the app, brands typically advertise their What’s App number on their social media pages, treating it like a new-age customer-service line.
“The app gives us a direct link to the customer,” said Marcela Basto, creative director of Brazilian shoe brand Marcela B. “Some people don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone or stepping out to go to the store, so they make the first contact with us through What’s App.”
Basto said the app’s main advantage is offering a more personal — and frequent — connection with customers. The brand can send clients photos or audio files of their latest shoes and update them whenever new products or promotions hit the store.
“What follows is either an immediate sale, or they ask us to set aside a specific pair so they can come to our store,” said Basto.
4. Getting Social
Brazilian footwear brands are using social platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to engage with consumers and drive sales.
One brand that has amped up its social media effort is Melissa, the Brazilian label focused on jelly shoes. It has more than 5 million followers on Facebook, with a monthly reach to about 11 million users.
“We have different objectives for each of the channels that we decided to work with,” said Raquel Scherer, Melissa’s global director of communications and strategy. “But directly or indirectly, they are all equally important to us when it comes to converting ‘likes’ into sales.”
One new way that players are using social media to push retail is through strategic partnerships with influential Brazilian bloggers. Schutz recently reposted photos from blogger Dandynha Barbosa wearing its shoes. (She currently has 105,000 followers on Instagram.)
“Bloggers have a strong influence over the Brazilian fashion market,” said Fabiola Guimaraes, brand manager at Schutz. “Consumers trust them and want to buy what they wear. We have seen strong sales as a result of each post, and at times the style pictured become our best-seller.”
Scherer agreed that these collaborations have to be as organic as possible. “The final goal is to have consumers identify with the influencers — creating that desire to wear something similar,” she said.