In India, the case for Direct-to Consumer (D2C) can be captured in one statistic: 300 million (300M) non-internet users will come online in the next 4 years to add to the current 550M online users. In parallel, 150M online shoppers are projected to hit 300M in the coming few years. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this movement. Now, from finding vaccination slots to making video calls to posting on social media, being online is an essential part of the new normal. This opens up a large consumer base that brands can establish direct, intimate relationships with.
D2C marketing can be one of the best ways to reach customers and build loyalty, circumventing the traditional intermediary channel partners. At Fireside, we’ve had the privilege of working closely with some of India’s leading D2C icons across categories, from consumer electronics at boAt to beauty & personal care at MamaEarth to packaged F&B at Vahdam or Kapiva. In this blogpost, I’m going to try and distill our learnings across our portfolio brands into a simple and actionable six-week sprint for you to build a Direct-to-Consumer sales channel for your brand.
When you bypass the traditional model of retail and distribution and create a model to sell directly to your customer, there are multiple advantages as a business, not limited to but including complete control over brand, pricing, growth, having a “digital lab” of consumers that you can test out packaging options, pricing sensitivity, and also product formulation options by looking at repeat cohort data, and many others…
The first part is the machine: build it once, and, if you do it right, it is built for scale and needs minimal ongoing intervention. The second part is how to get people to use the machine, and this part of the business will always be WIP.
Week 1: Get your store up and running.
Your shop may not be brick-and-mortar (yet), but location is still the first thing you need to get right. With ecommerce in India set to add 40 million new customers in 2021, think about your specific audience when you pick your digital home, whether on Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento. I analysed the various options on parameters like mobile performance, content and catalogue management, security, support, maintenance, and of course, cost.
Week 2: Pick your integrations.
What customer experience are you trying to create? What brings your customer to your online store rather than going to online marketplaces? Once they’re there, what keeps them engaged? What are the things that reduce friction while they shop?
The answers to these questions will guide your choice of partners from a fast-growing, vibrant ecosystem.
Third-party integrations for delivery and payments will help you deliver a smooth and attractive CX. Choose a delivery partner like Shiprocket or Vamaship to ship, and Clickpost to track your shipments. Make your choice of payment partners like Razorpay, Citruspay or PayTM so you can accept payments across a variety of methods. Checkout flows can be optimised with plugins like Xpresslane or Gokwik. Inventory management is a real challenge and getting an omni-channel inventory management platform integrated early reduces the burden of scale later -- lots of options here from Vinculum, Unicommerce, Browntape to Easyecom.
CRM or customer support will give your customers great CX. Kapture, Zoho, Freshdesk with integrations with Limechat, Yellow Messenger, Zendesk or Ameyo/ MyOperator to interface with the consumer are just some of the partners you could consider in this space for both on-page and off-page consumer connect.
Finally, marketing automation will enable you to optimise your traffic for conversion by ensuring your retention & retargeting flows are always on. Tools like Gamooga, Klaviyo, Moengage, Webengage and Clevertap offer you a range of marketing tasks you can automate, from retention marketing to remarketing to web notifications through multiple channels like SMS, email, social, etc.
I have analysed some of these tools across parameters like UI, predictive targeting, segmentation, cost etc.. You can find an in-depth comparison of several popular tools our companies use here.
These are the most important integrations to consider. Of course, to further optimise and course correct there are a host of tools out there from UX visualisation (Hotjar/ Mouseflow) to split testing (Google Optimize) to site monitoring (Updown.io) to security, exit intent, etc. I have found multiple options of most use cases in the Shopify Appstore to be quite helpful.
Week 3: Put your tech and reporting in place. Build a landing page that converts.
Get your tech basics in place, whether in terms of loading speeds or latency or mobile-first design. Here’s a comprehensive guide to landing page design to make sure your store is doing all it needs to, as quickly as possible.
Equally critical is SEO, so do add meta tags for ranking keywords, tags, categories and Alt-Text for images for the core search terms of the products that you are selling. This will help Google rank your pages better and improves discoverability & quality score of your ads for relevance. Here’s a guide that should help make sure your SEO works.
Now is when you start putting together a landing page that converts. A D2C webstore landing page is different from a marketplace landing page like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, etc. Typically, the brand is not very well known and consumers are curious to find out more. Your advertising has piqued their interest and if the landing page can't answer some of the queries/ concerns that consumers will have, they will bounce away. The onus is on us, as marketers, to give all the information that we can to the consumer is a manner that enables them to be confident to move forward and make a purchase. In short, the job of the landing page is to encourage the consumer to add something to their cart while dispelling all doubts and concerns.
I have looked at various content buckets and tested out combinations. Here is a sample hierarchy of content buckets that work hard at converting website visitors to brand purchasers. This is all optimised for the mobile web-view since that’s >80% of all traffic that one would typically get.
Make sure your customer reaches the finish line quickly and easily -preferably with two-click checkout. Make "Add to Cart" a sticky footer and enable checkout directly from the cart itself since most purchases on D2C websites are not basket purchases but 1-2 product purchases. On the Billing screen, don’t ask for signups or logins – just head straight to payment.
We have typically seen that well converting landing pages enable 8-10% of visitors to add something to their cart, >50% of carts to initiate checkouts and 75% of these end up buying something. Could be a great idea to start tracking these funnel metrics from the get-go.
At this stage, take the time to setup Google Analytics. Over-engineer this step if required, because anything that can be measured can be improved. Define all the clicks and events on the website. Ensure that you have campaign and UTM tags you’d like to track to help you understand ad performance at a more granular level. Once you start noticing drop-off points, set up remarketing to bring the customer back. For instance, landing pages for returning customers could be custom landing pages with content that aligns with the remarketing ad-creative that brought them back. If you are looking for a list of events to track, here are a few picks. You'll also find a complete list here.
Finally, you can test your website for latency and speed to ensure that consumers have a great loading experience on various mobile devices with low internet speeds as well. I have found Google PageSpeed Insights to be a great resource here.
That’s it. You’re set. You are now ready to run your first few test campaigns and welcome visitors to your web-store and start hearing the check-out till go Ka-Ching!!! I'd love to hear your experiences in setting up your online store, and best practices, tools and resources you've discovered as well.
The second part of this Sprint is here!