“D2C brands must identify what differentiates them from others”

After carving out a niche in the online space, many direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are now rapidly entering the physical store space.

The central idea behind the move is to tap into a wider consumer base, as people always want to touch and feel a product before they buy, said panelists who gathered to discuss “the future of ‘D2C industry’ during the e4m D2C Revolution Summit 2022 held on Thursday.

The session was chaired by Gaurav Dhawan, Executive Vice President and Head of Network Revenue, Times Network.

Explaining the reasons for launching a physical store, Abhinav Mathur, CEO of coffee brand D2C Something Brewing, said, “Our brand was born during the pandemic. Most of our products are priced at Rs 10,000 and above. We quickly realized that it would not be easy for consumers to trust a new brand with such an expensive product. Moreover, coffee is an experiential product. So many varieties and tastes are available, which cannot be tested online. So, on the occasion of our brand’s first anniversary, on October 1, 2021, which coincides with International Coffee Day, we have launched a physical store that is a perfect fit for the brand.

Mathur, however, insists that having a physical store is totally brand and category dependent. “If you’re true to the brand’s vision, people love you.”

Minu Margeret, founder and CEO of Bliss Club, said she will be launching a physical store soon, on the advice of other founders who say having a physical store is the smartest thing. “Many entrepreneurs have told me that a lot of product creation happens in real time. Being with consumers is important. Therefore, we are launching an experiential store right below our offices. People can touch and feel the product, our product development team would be there.

The product is king

Dhawan then asked entrepreneurs what D2C brands should do to stay ahead in the highly competitive consumer market.

According to Minu Margeret, products are always at the center of D2C’s concerns. “Choosing the products closest to consumers’ needs is the most important thing. D2C brands need to see what differentiates them from others. For example, if the consumer wants a pocket on the left or right side of the dress, how wide the zipper should be, etc. Building products is a constant process. A great product gives you an advantage.

“We create products for every moment in a woman’s working life. We tell gym-going consumers that we’re here to celebrate your journey. They can experience happiness with every degree of movement – ​​from low-intensity walks to high-intensity cardio. We built our brand on that,” she added.

Mahesh Patel, co-founder of Cloud Tailor, a D2C mobile app that aims to provide a digital solution to an offline tailoring problem, also explained the uniqueness of its offerings.

“Our model is based on the unique clothing needs of women, which are very different from the needs of men. Women need a lot of customization in dresses according to their choice, lifestyle, occasions, etc. Our app offers comprehensive styling for women’s fashion, learning, social sharing, order placement and order tracking,” Patel explained.

The biggest challenge

When Dhawan asked about the biggest challenge in D2C travel, Rohit Chawla, Founder and CEO of Bare Anatomy, cited consumer retention.

“Due to the growth of e-commerce platforms, the main barriers to starting a retail business have dropped significantly. To build the business, people often forget how to retain consumers. Five years ago, very few people had thought about D2C, now FMCG companies have also started to advertise on e-commerce portals, so retaining your customers is much more difficult than ever,” Chawla said.

He added: “People are impatient now. You need to deliver quickly. You have to deal with their complaints.

Margaret echoed the sentiments: “We want to provide a pleasant experience for customers. This is the fundamental expectation of young challenger brands. We offer a free and flexible exchange policy. The e-commerce ecosystem is so advanced that it facilitates D2C brands with excellent logistics providers who can predict arrival and arrange 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 quickly to consumers if they complain about your products,” Kaushik said.

Sharing his experience, Abhinav Mathur said, “Our consumers travel well, are knowledgeable and the conversations with them are meaningful. They are also willing to be loyal and forgiving. Some even pay three months in advance for orders. However, it all depends on the category.

On how brands create experiences and expand distribution through physical channels, Abhishek Chandra, Chief Revenue Officer of GoKwik, said, “We wanted to provide a different experience than Amazon and Flipkart. Our platform is built based on 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 difficult problems like return to origin (RTO) and improve conversion rates.

Great marketing

Margaret said: “Building a brand is the most important part of your entrepreneurial journey. Therefore, you must have a strong marketing team to be successful.

Other panelists agreed that the marketing department is crucial for start-ups.

They also discussed seasonal demand and its impact on their inventory and marketing.

“While products like sunscreen aren’t used much in the rainy season, hair care demands are different in winter due to increased dandruff. So of course the demand for certain products is seasonal nature. But some categories remain in demand throughout the year,” the panelists said.

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