“The number of businesses that have come online in the last 12 weeks is more than the number of businesses that have come online in the last 12 years. So Covid-19 has definitely changed the way businesses think and online is their first step towards succeeding, in their revenues.” – Vargab Bakshi, international partnerships lead, Shopify
Social distancing, remote operations, economic slowdown have all become household terms and the harsh reality for businesses is not going away anytime soon. The major brunt of this is being borne by startups and businesses that are struggling to survive. There is no denying that the pandemic has uprooted many traditional purchase patterns for consumers. But at the same time, it has also compelled businesses to focus on new avenues to do business and among these the D2C wave is the strongest.
The D2C (direct-to-consumer) revolution is backed by technology-supported operations and new-age outlook to branding and productisation. The D2C model not only helps brands skip the multiple layers in a traditional supply chain — such as retailers, wholesalers and distributors — to go to the consumer directly, but also have greater control on brand and consumer experience.
Industry experts believe that the future of retail will come from such direct consumer relationships.
Going D2C With Shopify And PayPal
To understand how businesses and entrepreneurs can leverage the D2C opportunity and not only set up native ecommerce platforms, but also take their existing operations global, Inc42 is hosting a 12-part webinar series #GoingD2C, featuring some of the leading industry experts in association with PayPal and Shopify.
The first webinar of the series, ‘Why Build A Direct To Consumer Brand Now’ was hosted on August 6 at 3 pm. Joining the webinar as speakers were Vargab Bakshi, international partnerships lead at Shopify and Naarayan TV, head of marketing, PayPal and joining them was Ashish Tandon, director, channel partnerships, PayPal.
In case you missed our live session, here’s a quick recap. Our analysis on it continues below…
The Right D2C Moment For Businesses
“The honest reality is, if not now, when? If you look at the state of how businesses are functioning today, it’s a level playing field because the internet is accessible across regions, forget countries,” — Naarayan TV.
With the rise of internet penetration even in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, reaching customers across the length and breadth of the country has become all the more easier. According to Statista, currently India is home to nearly 700 Mn internet users and is expected to house over 974 Mn by 2025. In addition to that, the country was also recognised as the second largest online market worldwide in 2019.
As the internet becomes more easily available, India has witnessed the rise of many brands with the D2C model such as Ustraa, Mama Earth, Sleepycat, Bewakoof, Wakefit, Licious and more, who have made a name for themselves. As the consumer becomes more comfortable with shopping online, the model is seeing a huge acceptance from around the globe.
It is these factors that make D2C the best shot for entrepreneurs to build a brand, especially in the current scenarios.
Like Naarayan, Bakshi pointed out that for new sellers, it is better to start with social media to connect with consumers because that’s where most customers already are. This enables brands to build the bridge with the customer to see if they will really buy into the product vision. Once the seller does the proof of concept from social media, then it becomes imperative for them to build a website.
“Having a website is really important otherwise if you are just a business page on social media then the credibility isn’t very high. So, test the market by selling on social media and if you are seeing some kind of success then immediately have a website,” added Bakshi.
Making The D2C Shift: What Are The Capital Requirements?
“You don’t need capital investment, that’s the beauty of the internet and the way it has changed the concept of distribution. Today, the internet has allowed any small business to come out with a powerful story and have a strong narrative and build a loyal customer base,” said Bakshi, when asked about the minimum capital required for a business to go D2C.
While a decade ago, setting up and building an online venture meant having to hire and work with a huge IT team to give the customers a seamless experience, today, it is a matter of weeks or even days. This has been enabled with the help of ready-to-use ecommerce software offered by enablers such as Shopify.
There are many examples from the industry that have proved just that. Tea brand Inchmasala was supposed to launch a D2C channel in December 2019 but had to delay it due to the pandemic. However, it recently launched an ecommerce website in just 15 days with the help of Shopify. “Shopify is an easy to use platform and a lot of friends recommended the same. They also offer modules on what you can do towards marketing etc,” said Inchmasala cofounder Apporwa Choudhary.
Even established brands, for that matter, were of the belief that going D2C is much harder, but the SaaS platforms available today are proving otherwise. For instance, Boat Electronics, which was initially selling on marketplaces, decided to go D2C by setting up their website using Shopify. With the website up and running in a matter of weeks, the brand started selling directly to consumers. It also witnessed a boost in marketing returns without the worry of scaling and maintenance issues thanks to the plug-and-play omnichannel order management.
The go-to market time is reduced considerably thanks to the ease of launch with these tools. Brands just need professional photos of the product, create catchy names and descriptions, finalise returns and shipping policies and set the right pricing. Even payments and reconciliation are taken care of by digital solutions.
Why Digital Payments Is Key For D2C Success
While in offline businesses, the owner has the luxury to meet its customers in person and give them a unified and seamless experience, it is necessary that the same is translated to the digital world as well.
“So, if you are selling to the consumers in India or if you’re selling abroad, if your brand can have a unified theme or navigation experience, that is when the customers will really love you,” Paypal’s Tandon said about offering cross-border payment options such as multiple currency support.
With technology helping customers and merchants automatically offer the right currency options on basis the country of origin, the adoption rate rises while checkout dropout rates drop significantly. This is also a key factor in keeping customers coming back and also goes a long way towards reducing marketplace dependency for brands.
Marketing Spends: How To Acquire And Retain Users?
Depending on the stage of the business, brands need to make the decision of choosing the right marketing partner or tool. While a casual seller can grow and build with the help of just social media, a slightly more evolved business needs to set up a website and focus on content to attract the users. And beyond this there needs to be a nuanced brand narrative as well.
Like Naarayan mentioned, “You need to have a story, talk about yourself and make it relevant to what you are selling, make it relatable to people and they will come after you,”
The primary factors for new brands in deciding the marketing journey is the spending capability and the customer reach. Additionally, a business needs to figure out and finalise whether it is push marketing that is going to work for it or is it pull marketing. Depending on that, there are many ways to save cost and still market your brand and rope in more customers. An example of that is the influencer marketing which is growing immensely, as Bakshi pointed out.
“You will have to try out a bunch of things to figure out what is working for you and what isn’t working for you. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Just try and split your budget across various channels and see what is working and what is not and start calculating returns.”
With Covid-19 changing the way businesses think, online has now become the first step towards survival, growth and success. Taking that into consideration, many experts believe that it’s super important to focus more on building a brand to convince consumers to pay the full price. This can be done through the power of storytelling and giving customers a delightful purchasing experience.