Driving Brands in the Current Retail Landscape: From a Smooth Entry to a Satisfying Exit

Driving Brands in the Current Retail Landscape: From a Smooth Entry to a Satisfying Exit

Lucas Johnson, Vice President, Zippo Global Marketing, 0

Loyal to his Pennsylvania roots, Lucas Johnson brings both passion and expertise to his role as Associate Vice President of Global Marketing at Zippo Manufacturing Company where he oversees strategy and program development for the brand’s iconic Zippo Windproof Lighter and expanding lifestyle product category. A seasoned veteran, he provides creative leadership to Zippo’s Design Center and Art Department, in addition to managing North American Ronson Consumer Products business unit and marketing and communications agency partners.

In a conversation with Bimlesh Prasad, Correspondent, CEO Insights, Lucas talked about how the retail sector is growing its dominance in India. He also discussed some of the challenges the retail sector is facing as well as the most recent trends that will have an impact on the Indian market.

Tell us about the development of the retail industry and how significant changes affected ‘how merchants conduct businesses?
In recent years, we have observed a rise in the sale of Zippo products in the e-commerce portals we partner with on a global scale. We are also experiencing resurgence in brick-and-mortar retail, even as e-commerce continues to flourish.

One of the most significant changes we've seen is in the way customers pay for products. Rather than using credit cards, there's a noticeable trend towards tokenized and micropayments, which enable customers to make multiple payments at a later date.

Personalization has also become a more prominent trend, with consumers seeking customized products tailored to their unique preferences. This shift towards personalization is evident in both brick and mortar and e-commerce, and it represents a revolution in the industry. Major global brands are leading the charge by allowing customers to choose the design and overall look and feel of the final product, which is true for Indian stores and local Indian brands as well.

What leadership quality and strategies are needed for sustaining and expanding retail business in the Indian Market/Asian Market?
The most crucial leadership trait is the willingness to be open to change and the ability to respond promptly, or better yet, proactively. The pandemic has undoubtedly taught us this lesson. At Zippo, we had to transition to a fully remote workforce within three days of the pandemic's onset. Although it was a significant adjustment for us, we responded quickly, and that was one of the reasons why we succeeded during the pandemic.

What modifications to product durability and life cycle have been made over the past five years, and what objectives have you set for the next 10 years to stay ahead in the marketplace?
Zippo stands apart from other companies in the industry in several ways. Unlike many products that require frequent modifications, our products are built to last a lifetime, and we stand by that guarantee. Consequently,
we have made very few changes to our products since they are already designed to last for a lifetime.

Additionally, we intend to expand the range of our Zippo products, providing consumers with more options to choose from, and fostering greater diversity.

What are major challenges faced by the retail industry to sustain and grow in today's market?
The retail industry is currently facing several significant challenges, including but not limited to changes in consumer behavior and capturing and maintaining their attention. In today's fast-paced online environment, consumers have access to multiple options, and therefore, brands must deliver a compelling message to grab their attention.

Another significant challenge for retailers is the proliferation of counterfeit products. For example, in the case of Zippo lighters, numerous lookalike products have emerged, attempting to capitalize on the success of our products. The prevalence of fake products not only dilutes the market but also prevents consumers from accessing quality-approved and authentic products. In addition, retailers must also grapple with seamlessly transitioning consumers from online to offline channels. This is a critical consideration for brand growth in today's market, and different retailers approach this challenge in different ways. Finding a workable solution is essential for brands to thrive in the current retail landscape.

Finding a workable solution is essential for brands to thrive in the current retail landscape.

What are the most recent retail trends that will affect the Indian market and what could consumers and retailers anticipate seeing in the near future?
E-commerce continues to grow: With increasing internet access and smartphone penetration, e-commerce continues exponential growth in India. Consumers can expect to see more online marketplaces and retailers expanding their online presence. Zippo is exploring more ways to harmonize the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail experience for consumers, as many consumers continue to utilize e-commerce sites for product information and reviews before heading into a retail location themselves to finalize their purchase.

Personalized shopping experiences: Indian consumers are increasingly demanding personalized experiences, and retailers are responding by using data and technology to offer tailored recommendations and services. Zippo utilizes consumer testing and trend identification to develop new lighter artwork, allowing us to create culturally relevant designs for specific markets.

Social media as a shopping platform: Social media platforms are increasingly becoming a place for consumers to discover and directly purchase products. Retailers can anticipate investing more in social media marketing and utilizing these platforms as a sales channel to maximize e-commerce revenue. Zippo, thanks in part to the collect-ability of our windproof lighters, has amassed a large and loyal global fanbase. Our social media strategy involves not just creating engaging content and curated ad targeting, but also ensuring that our fans and consumers feel supported and connected to the brand.

These are just a few potential trends that could impact the Indian retail market in the near future. It's important to note that the retail industry is constantly evolving, and retailers need to stay on top of emerging trends and adapt to changing consumer preferences to remain competitive.