Integrating influencer marketing into the overall digital marketing strategy has helped many D2C brands build credibility, target wider audience and improve brand recall
With the millennials demanding brands rooted in purpose, the new-age brands are also going beyond marketing gimmicks and focus on delivering a product with a purpose and conveying the same in its overall marketing strategy
Analytics and automation offered by many martech companies such as Webengage, Moengage, Wigzo and others have also helped these brands increase conversion rate and repeat purchases by reaching the right audience, at the right time through the right channel
India's D2C Rush
As more and more consumer brands go digital to reach customers faster and carve a unique identity, India’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) moment is well and truly here. With thousands of brands competing in the D2C space, will this be the future of India’s retail market?
“You are the most powerful as long as there lives a gentleman in you!”
When actor Ayushmaan Khurana spoke these words on International Men’s Day last year as part of a marketing campaign for The Man Company, it turned out to be a game changer for the men’s grooming brand.
Called ‘The Gentleman’s Charter: Gentleman Kise Kehtein Hai’, the campaign that broke on Khurana’s and the brand’s social channels was shared 50K times in just the first 24 hours and received 82 Mn+ organic views. It also led to 25% increase in net revenue during the campaign period, 29% increase in average order value (AOV) and 291% increase in website users.
The campaign was surely a phenomenal success, but the secret sauce behind it was not difficult to guess. It had a strong brand narrative that struck a chord with millennials and the generation Z men; it spoke of a new charter and was delivered by a youth icon who resonated with the brand persona, social media influencers took to their channels to share it and lastly, it conveyed what today’s digitally native brands believe in, a brand purpose.
Today, as more and more people are addressing their pent-up buying frustration by shopping online, the pandemic has become a catalyst for many brands to go the D2C way and open online stores and for existing brands to scale up. The zeal to run such campaigns and get closer to customers has only increased for these brands. For instance, we also saw actresses Deepika Padukone and Jacqueline Fernandez creating living room content to promote the new-age brands they have invested in yogurt brand Epigamia and cold-pressed juice company RAW Pressery respectively.
Compelling Stories From Influencers: The Perfect Recipe For Brand Loyalty
Consumer brands are not only skipping the third-party retailers and distributors by going direct-to-consumer (D2C), they are looking at offering authentic brand experiences. The direct feedback and customer knowledge gained through the D2C model throws at them the opportunity to develop a strong brand narrative, build brand value, improve conversion rate and repeat purchase and forge long-term relationships with customers to create brand loyalty.
The brand narrative is delivered in the form of compelling stories through a number of ways, with influencer marketing being one of the key elements. According to a 2019 report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau around 40% of D2C shoppers in the US said that celebrities and professional influencers make them more interested in a brand, while only 15% of traditional shoppers felt the same.
“We focus on dissemination of information on hygiene through our social media campaigns and our products regularly get organically promoted by more than 8K social media influencers on platforms like Instagram,” Vikas Bagaria, founder, Pee Safe told us.
Influencers and celebrities seem to have a great impact on their perception of a brand. A good example in point would be Mamaearth Mother’s Day Campaign on social media, a crowdsourced video made remotely on the role that mothers play in our lives. It saw influencers and more than 1K moms remotely participating in the song about mothers and the special role they play in our lives.
For wellness brand Sarva too, bringing a defining brand proposition through new-age marketing techniques holds utmost importance. What created a huge impact for them recently was also an influencer-led storytelling, leading up to International Yoga Day on June 21st. The brand digital campaign, Yoga+ aimed at showcasing real stories of real people and how yoga changed their lives. It was spearheaded by celebrity influencers including Malaika Arora, Aishwaryaa Dhanush, Akansha Ranjan Kapoor, Kubbra Sait, Yami Gautam and others and micro-influencers, particularly fitness enthusiasts.
Through the campaign, which reached more than 150 Mn people, the app downloads grew by over 300% and also saw a 4x growth in revenue. “The campaign was spoken of by over 100+ media publications and it crossed 300K downloads in a little over 100 days with the least money we have spent so far in any digital campaign,” Sarvesh Shashi, founder, Sarva told Inc42.
Choosing the right influencers is also key for D2C brands.
As Tarun Sharma of personal care brand Mcaffeine tell us while explaining why they chose Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta for a recent Friendship Day campaign, a virtual coffee date, “We believe in internet everybody is an influencer, influencers of different scale and brands like us need to find relevant opinion leaders to spread the narrative. The influencer’s personality should resonate with what the brand represents. For us, it would be ‘bold, confident and individualistic’. We also let our influencers experience the product and then genuinely convey the same to the customers what they feel about it.”
Visual Marketing Replaces Visual Merchandising
Bombay Shaving Company, which spends 80% of its marketing budget on driving sales to its ecommerce website, also continues to bet high on influencer marketing. The company’s brand ambassador actor Kartik Aryan was recently seen sharing with customers on how he is engaging with the brand and giving shoutouts. And instead of a direct product push, the company also had a lot of social media influencers like Dolly Singh and other macro influencers send out messages enabling people to live a happier life.
However, for the company, that’s not the only way to please the customers. Innovation is important at levels. As part of its Raksha Bandhan campaign, the company offered a customised packaging to a brother from a sister with a photo of both.
“It was a challenge to create such customised products and deliver them on time with the current situation, but we wanted to continue engaging with customers directly and also give value back to them. We made the pricing reasonable and ensured that besides the package it also had useful products such as sanitiser, mask, best grooming range along with rakhi,” said Samriddh Dasgupta, head, marketing and new initiatives, Bombay Shaving Company. Dasgupta also shares with us an interesting marketing hack, a funnel, for early-stage D2C startups.
What visual merchandising is for offline sales is what packaging and visual display is for D2C brands. In order to grab the attention of the consumer and to position the brand, a lot of effort goes into marketing. Visual marketing like visual merchandising is also key. For instance, Urban Ladder offers 360-degree product views, videos and animations explaining product features. For Bewakoof, a t-shirt pure-play D2C brand, becoming an official merchandise partner for many Bollywood movies like Gangs of Wasseypur, Akshay Kumar starrer Boss helped position the brand better.
Delivering A Purpose Over Cause Marketing
For two decades Pepsi and Coca Cola have continued to fight each other and have tried to position one over another as a better brand. Marketing was like a battleground and the fights sometimes got bitter as well. Later came the era of social responsibility. Marketers used it as a ploy to reach more consumers. However, today the millennials want to see a brand rooted in purpose. They are looking for brands that through the product want to see a change in the world.
New-age brands thus are going beyond such gimmicks and the focus is more towards delivering a product with a purpose. Authenticity and marketing channels communicating the same is what seems to be working today. For instance, for Sublime Life, sustainability is a key. “Some of our initiatives include plastic-free shipping. We also send out seed paper along with packaging to encourage each of our customers to plant. This is part of our #SublimeRecycles Programme,” said Deep Lalvani, Founder Sublime Life. The brand, whose key focus in terms of revenue and marketing is on the D2C, claims to sell natural and organic beauty products that are toxin-free, cruelty free and sustainable.
For Pee Safe also, the target audience is millennials who understand the value of personal hygiene.
“Right from the launch of our brand in 2013, we have been consistently running awareness drives and campaigns on social media that highlight the risks posed by lack of hygiene and sanitation. In fact, our very first product, the toilet seat sanitizer became a global trendsetting product and over the years we have regularly launched new high-quality hygiene products,” said Vikas Bagaria, founder, Pee Safe.
Apart from personal hygiene and sanitation, the company sends out its brand purpose as reducing the carbon footprint and has introduced products such as biodegradable sanitary pads etc. The brand has been doing several brand awareness campaigns including influencers marketing, content marketing, etc. and offline – instore, radio, OOH, transit, etc.) coupled with performance campaigns (search marketing, targeted ads on social media, etc. and has achieved
A combined reach in the last three years of 30 Mn+ and 1.5 Mn+ customers (online and offline) and a steady growth in revenue year on year of 200%+. Plus, the average order value has increased 150% in the last year with customer engagement increasing by 250%, said Vikas Bagaria, founder, Pee Safe.
When lockdown hit, Dr. Vaidya’s realised that there was a lot of confusion and doubt in the mind of consumers. Rather than focusing just on sales, the brand started a series called Heal at Home featuring daily expert sessions on Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Yoga, Ayurveda and virtual concerts everyday to reassure customers. From mid April to July, the brand hosted more than 70 sessions from experts around the globe and garnered more than 100K views and 100% increase in Instagram following organically. For the month of August, the brand has started a ‘Proudly Indian’ series featuring stories of people across sports, service and professional life that have had a lasting impact on India.
Understanding Digital Body Language
Ecommerce analytics play a key role in helping these brands choose the right channel of marketing. By combining data from various sources like Google Analytics, Facebook ads, Google ads and matching that with SKU and transactional data gives them key metrics like net profit according to the sales channel wise and product.
Every single D2C brand is now focused on two key retention metrics. Conversion rate and repeat purchases. According to a 2019 report, 61% of D2C brands rely on social media to reach customers and SEO comes second (51%) in acquiring customers.
“A marketing platform that allows brands to segregate data, see their numbers in real time, deep dive into repeat purchasers and SKU level analytics is not a luxury anymore and brands gravitate towards platforms that integrate seamlessly and allow them to look at this data in real time and act on it. Serious brands want to make data driven decisions across all their marketing channels. That is why it has become a key cog in scaling up a D2C brand,” said Umair Mohammed, founder and CEO, Wigzo. The platform caters to 60 D2C brands in India including Amydus, Ssup Vitamins, Fugazee, Femella and Wforwomen.
For Shalabh Gupta, founder & CEO or Akiva Superfoods, analytics helped make some right decisions during the lockdown. “Due to the Covid pandemic, our best-selling product, a pre-wedding pack, dropped 90% in popularity over the Jan-Feb period. This wasn’t surprising as we expected a drop in all products other than Immunity since customers couldn’t go out or meet anyone. Our Immunity products did indeed grow in prominence. But most interestingly, the pageviews on our solutions for Weight Management remained similar and our conversions even increased,” he said.
D2C Marketers Focus On Catchy, Quirky, Humourous & Trending Content
Since most D2C brands do not always have the budget and they have to cut down on Above The Line (TV, radio) marketing or automate the entire process, innovative cost-effective solutions are key.
“It is a David VS Goliath story. Startups/ SMEs don’t enjoy the credibility and deep pockets like that of Amazons and Flipkarts of the world! But the Internet is a great equaliser. It has created a level playing field for large MNCs and small companies But the challenge is to drive relevant traffic by creating a distinct value proposition that compels the users to buy,” said Tamanna Gupta, Virtual CMO and founder of Umanshi Marketing & Branding.
The challenge today thus is not the tools or the channels, as there are multiple free tools for early stage brands and paid independent tools to choose from as well, but to stand out. For instance, a simple marketing strategy of demonstrating the product live to the consumers on video conferencing in May 2020, brought the best results for Milagrow Robots. “In our category which is new to the consumer, such direct strategy builds a lot of confidence in the customers,” said Rajeev Karwal, founder and chairman, Milagrow Robots.
The live video demos helped the brand sell more than 500 robots on the spot. The average ticket size was INR 80K and there was an increase of 400% in net revenue and 1500% increase in AOVs.
Innovative content marketing has taken over the whole marketing framework and has become an inherent part of every marketing tool. “On lines of our brand positioning of adding lightheartedness to life, we create and post content which is relatable and contemporary humor is also something they try. This has built an organic following for the brand of 4.5 Mn fans on Facebook and 1 Mn fans on Instagram. Bewakoof is a brand built on social media and content marketing has been our main strategy,” said Prabhkiran Singh, cofounder & director, Bewakoof.
For Bewakoof, a pure-play D2C brand with 100% sale on the native platform, the story started with the name Bewakoof. “In the fashion world taken too seriously, Bewakoof is all about making it less boring and more fun, less serious, more Cheerful. We want o enable self expression through products,” Singh added.
For D2C brands with a focus on drawing web traffic to its own ecommerce portal, making good use of the trending topics in most cases also does the trick along with humour. It also helps them get better reach in Tier 2, 3 cities. For Super Smelly, the nation’s focus shifting to being ‘Vocal for Local,’ gave an upper edge. The brand quickly jumped into the trend and catered to an audience looking for vernacular marketing content, initially focusing on Hindi, Gujarati & Tamil audience.
Most of these initiatives were started from the month of May 2020 and the brand was able to reach 23 Lakh views and acquire 574 new customers with these efforts.
Further, the fear of contracting Covid-19 has given digital media the opportunity to encourage people to form opinions and be influenced towards a product or service through content marketing, social media paid ads, SEO and other tools mentioned above to drive traffic to their ecommerce portals and bring in sales. As Divanshi Gupta, Director, The Marcom Avenue told us, the complete shutdown of the economy has further saturated the market and has put pressure on the media and marketing world to try new avenues to market the brand.
“D2C or branded commerce trend has gotten accelerated by a few years due to Covid-19. With cheaper marketing capabilities offered by the internet, we will see both traditional large brands and new-age brands emerge in the space in India,” Pankaj Makkar, managing director, Bertelsmann India Investments told Inc42.
Today, with wider channels, marketing is not a luxury enjoyed by only well-established brands. However, what one brings to the table and how well they convey the same makes all the difference.