‘D2C brands need to identify what makes them different from others’
At the e4m D2C Revolution Summit, a number of start-up founders came together to discuss the future of the D2C industry, the challenges and their individual strategies
After carving a niche in the online space, many direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are now fast entering the physical store space.
The core idea behind the move is to tap into a larger consumer base as people still want to touch and feel a product before buying, opined panellists who got together to discuss “The future of D2C industry” at the e4m D2C Revolution Summit 2022 held on Thursday.
The session was chaired by Gaurav Dhawan, Executive Vice President and Network Revenue Head, Times Network.
Explaining the reasons behind launching a physical store, Abhinav Mathur, CEO of D2C coffee brand Something Brewing, said, “Our brand was born in the pandemic. Most of our products are priced at Rs 10,000 and above. We realized soon that it would not be easy for consumers to trust a new brand with such a highly-priced product. Besides, coffee is an experiential product. So many varieties and tastes are available, which can't be tested online. Hence, on the first anniversary of our brand, October 1, 2021, which coincides with International Coffee Day, we launched a physical store that is the right fit for the brand.”
Mathur, however, insists that having a physical store totally depends on the brand and the category. “If you are true to the vision of the brand, people like you.”
Minu Margeret, Founder and CEO, Bliss Club, said she would be launching a physical store soon, on the advice of other founders who say having a physical store is the smartest thing. “Many entrepreneurs told me that a lot of product building happens in real-time. Being with consumers is important. Hence, we are launching an experiential store just below our office. People can touch and feel the product, our product development team would be there.”
Product is King
Dhawan then asked the entrepreneurs what D2C brands should do to remain ahead in the highly competitive consumer market.
As per Minu Margeret, the products always remain the main focus for D2C. “Choosing the products that are closer to what consumers need is the most important thing. D2C brands have to see what makes them different from others. For instance, whether the consumer wants a pocket on the left side of the dress or right, what should be the width of the zip and so on. Product building is a constant process. A great product gives you an edge.”
“We create products for every moment of a woman’s active life. We tell consumers who go to the gym that we are there to celebrate your journey. They can experience happiness with every degree of movement - from low-intensity walks to high-intensity cardio. We have built our brand on this,” she added.
Mahesh Patel, Co-founder of Cloud Tailor, a D2C mobile app that aims at providing a digital solution to an offline tailoring problem, also explained the uniqueness of his offerings.
“Our model is based on the unique clothing needs of women, which is very different from men’s needs. Women need a lot of personalisation in dresses based on their choice, lifestyle, occasions and so on. Our app has a full women's fashion styling, learning, social sharing, order placement and tracking,” Patel explained.
When Dhawan asked about the biggest challenge in the D2C journey, Rohit Chawla, Founder and CEO, Bare Anatomy, cited consumer retention.
“Due to the growth of ecommerce platforms, biggest-barriers to starting a retail business have gone down significantly. To build the company, people often forget how to retain consumers. Five years back, very few people had thought of D2C. Now, FMCG companies have also started advertising on e-commerce portals. So, retaining your customers is far more challenging now than ever,” Chawla said.
He added, “People are impatient now. You have to deliver quickly. You must attend to their complaints.”
Margaret echoed the sentiments, “We want to give a blissful experience to customers. This is the basic expectation from young challenger brands. We offer a free and flexible exchange policy. The ecommerce ecosystem is so evolved that it eases out the D2C brands with great logistic providers which can predict the arrival and arranges return and exchange.”
Vishal Kaushik, MD and co-founder of Upakarma Ayurveda, also spoke about consumer satisfaction.
“Only influencer campaigns don't work in this segment. You need to respond to consumers quickly if they complain about your products,” Kaushik said.
Sharing his experience, Abhinav Mathur said: “Our consumers are well travelled, well informed and discussions with them are meaningful. They are willing to be loyal and forgiving as well. Some even pay three months in advance for orders. However, it all depends on the category.”
On how brands are creating experiences and expanding their distribution through physical channels, Abhishek Chandra, Chief Revenue Officer of GoKwik, said, “We wanted to offer a different experience than Amazon and Flipkart. Our platform is built on the basis of different stages of the consumer journey so that we have a higher conversion rate than others.”
Chandra said GoKwik uses AI/ML technologies to solve hard-hitting problems like Return to Origin (RTO) and improve conversion rates.
Margaret said, “Building a brand is the most important part of your entrepreneurial journey. Hence, you have to have a strong marketing team to succeed.”
Other panellists agreed that the marketing department is crucial for start-ups.
They also discussed seasonal demands and its impact on their inventory and marketing.
“While products like sunscreen are not used much during the rainy seasons, hair care demands are different in winters due to increased dandruff. So, of course, demand for some products are seasonal in nature. But some categories remain in demand all over the year,” the panellists said.
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