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As Online Sales Grow During COVID-19, Retailers Like Montce Swim Adapt And Find Success

When Florida native Alexandra Grief started selling custom-made bikinis from her apartment 10 years ago, it was merely a side business and passion project. She bought fabrics and tapped into her local community for help with the sewing work.

But today, that side project has grown into a flourishing business: Her company Montce Swim now has four retail locations (two each on east and west coasts) and products that are sold at 60 stockist partners around the world.

When COVID-19 hit and the brand’s retail stores had to close down, Grief worried sales would take a hit.

But like many other retailers with online and offline presences, she was surprised to discover her audience merely shifted from buying in-store to buying online. 

Online sales on the rise

The shift to online buying Montce witnessed speaks to an early trend that data is becoming clear over the few months of the COVID-19 shutdown: Online sales, as a whole, are on the rise—and this consumer behavior may become the new normal.

A Digital Commerce 360 analysis showed that online spending represented 16.2% of total retail sales for the quarter, which marks the second-highest online share for any quarter in history. 

data also showed that total online spending in May hit $82.5 billion, which is up a whopping 77% year-over-year. Vivek Pandya, Adobe’s Digital Insights Manager, says that it normally would’ve taken between four to six years to reach this level of online sales had things continued at the pre-coronavirus pace.

“It’s an absolute imperative that brands lean into their digital channels,” said Jason Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis.

“Almost every retailer that relied on stores for the bulk of their sales is now trying to double down on their ecommerce experiences and/or their curbside pickup experiences.”

Montce is a brand seeing this shift play out in real-time: In May of 2020, they had a 134% increase in year-over-year online traffic, a 13% increase in online conversion rates, and a 5% boost in year-over-year email open rates. While they couldn’t disclose specific sales volumes, they shared that overall their numbers were up.

Adapting to COVID-19

Grief attributes part of the uptick in online activity Montce is seeing to the brand’s ability to be agile as a smaller, privately-held operation. 

Across the spectrum of the brand’s operations, many changes were quickly deployed to adapt to the retail implications of COVID-19:

  • When it came to marketing, their paid advertising and remarketing budgets went up, as did their focus on the brand’s social media presence. 
  • Because Instagram is a huge source of customer acquisition for the brand, they leaned into their influencer and affiliate partnerships there, and rather than organizing in-person photo shoots, they let these partners take a DIY approach to content creation.
  • While its retail stores were closed, Montce repurposed these physical spaces into shipping and order fulfillment centers to handle the increased volume of online orders. 
  • They also used this period of store closures to focus on operational improvements that had been put on the backburner: They implemented a new inventory system, and new roles were created for employees with a focus on marketing.

By quickly making these changes, Montce was able to capitalize on and leverage its existing audience of online shoppers that helped not only sustain the operation during a worldwide crisis, but actually grow its sales, too.

Looking ahead

We’re not finished with change in the retail world spurred by COVID-19, but in the case of Montce Swim, they’ll continue to move forward with future plans and a focus on blended retail experiences (both online and off) as their retail stores re-open.

“We’ll build on what works,” Grief said. 

From Goldberg’s perspective in the retail industry, this is a smart approach.

“In the short term, the biggest win seems to be omni-channel retailers that have inventory in stores, close to consumers, but who can sell that product online and deliver it curbside,” he said.

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