New-age consumer brands are locked in a tough battle with their peers and industry behemoths to grab a substantial share of India’s $400 Bn ecommerce market opportunity
Brands like Snitch and Nepenthe believe that keeping customers updated about their orders throughout the post-purchase journey is essential for smooth outcomes
3PL player Pickrr helps partner brands automate messages and send real-time, personalised updates on popular communication channels like SMS, WhatsApp and email
Business gurus often tell new-age startup founders to exceed user expectations if they want to thrive in today’s highly competitive business landscape. For ecommerce brands, listening to customers and going that extra mile to wow them are, indeed, imperative. But what parameters define these expectations, and how should brands deliver to win customer loyalty?
The answer may seem straightforward, but it isn’t, as multiple factors must be considered. Start from the look and feel of the website. Ensure easy access to a dedicated customer service team. And most importantly, deliver top-quality products within the promised timeframe. In between, it will be great to have a brand narrative of value doing the rounds.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. But these are critical components of the customer journey that can help a brand put the customer at the heart of its business, win the trust and remain more profitable than its competitors by boosting customer retention.
“User experience has gained more importance than the product itself. We are always looking for ways to improve customer experience,” said Chetan Siyal, chief marketing officer of the Bengaluru-based D2C fast fashion brand Snitch, which caters to style-conscious Indian men.
Siyal told Inc42 that the CX (customer experience) strategy of Snitch is about making sure that its customers feel heard (and valued). “Post-delivery, we encourage them to provide us feedback on product quality and the ordering process. They love us because of our transparent communication,” he added.
India is home to more than 2K active ecommerce brands, while many deep-pocketed legacy brands have also embraced online retail to reach a wider audience. In brief, new-age consumer brands are locked in a tough battle with their peers and industry behemoths to grab a substantial share of the country’s $400 Bn ecommerce market opportunity. This makes investing in CX more critical than ever.
“There was a time when user experience was measured by the services offered during a customer’s purchase, including features like one-click checkouts and user-friendly user interface. But customers today have become quite demanding and it is important to make the post-purchase experience as frictionless as possible even when the products are returned,” said Gaurav Mangla, cofounder and CEO of Pickrr, a third-party logistics (3PL) player catering to ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands.
Both Siyal and Mangla believe when prospects become buyers, brands should focus on retaining them to ensure repeat purchases. This is possible through reliable shipping and hassle-free order delivery while keeping them engaged throughout this period and taking regular feedback.
“Assuring customers that they will receive quality products on time is the first step towards building a premium post-purchase experience. This can significantly improve customer satisfaction,” said Mangla.
What Goes Into Building A Smooth Post-Purchase Experience
Although investing in tech-powered capabilities like a robust shipping and logistics management system is necessary to ensure smooth CX, these incur additional costs. On the other hand, cost-effective solutions are critical for business sustainability. This begs the question if there is a way to provide a smooth post-purchase experience without worrying about expenses.
Like many early-stage brands, Snitch found it difficult to zero in on the right solution. But when the brand began its D2C journey in 2020, it was overwhelmed with orders in the first four months and decided to tie up with a 3PL partner, said Siyal.
“We were looking for delivery partners to help us save on logistics costs. It was essential as we wanted to put our resources to sustainable use,” he explained.
This was when Pickrr came to the rescue. Its automated carrier selection tool helped Snitch identify the most cost-effective delivery partner from more than 70 options. Today, it makes more than 1,900 shipments every month from just 60 orders in 2020.
This leap coincided with its fast-expanding customer base, which grew 2x, from 4 Lakh to 8 Lakh between 2021 and 2022, according to Siyal. The ease of operations enabled by Pickrr and the efficient order fulfilment also contributed to the outcome.
“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out how to run your orders with Pickrr. The centralised dashboard is very simple to understand and automatically connects you with the best courier partner,” said Abhishek Shah, founder and CEO of Nepenthe Coffee and Chocolates.
Set up in 2017, the Mumbai-based brand started as a B2B venture, selling coffee beans and gluten-free chocolates to cafes and coffee shops. It was listed on Amazon India in 2020 to test the waters in the B2C space.
Nepenthe’s healthy chocolate bars were an instant hit on Amazon, and Shah credited it to a shift in people’s eating habits post the pandemic. People are more conscious about their health in the new normal, but they do not want to give up on their love for chocolate or sugar cravings.
Cashing in on this trend, brands like Nepenthe offer the perfect blend of health and taste. “Instead of refined sugar, we use stevia to sweeten the cocoa beans in our chocolate bars. This does not spike the insulin level as sugar does,” explained Shah.
Nepenthe began its D2C journey in 2021 and partnered with Pickrr for quick and efficient shipping solutions. It started with 15 orders a day and scaled to more than 4K daily orders in 2022.
Siyal and Shah think cost-effective shipping can significantly boost businesses, but what happens during the shipping process makes or breaks a brand.
“Every customer expects a personal touch when connecting with a brand. At Snitch, our primary focus is to keep everyone in the loop throughout the process, from ordering to delivery,” said Siyal.
“Customers are impatient and keep a watchful eye on their orders at all times. But it is not possible for us to reply to 300 messages a day. Fortunately, our customers receive all relevant information on WhatsApp [through our logistics partner], and we don’t have to worry about keeping track of shipping,” added Shah.
For context, Snitch and Nepenthe leverage Pickrr Connect, a value-added service that automates shipping alerts on popular messaging channels to keep customers updated.
Throughout the order journey, Pickrr Connect sends real-time, personalised updates to buyers on channels like SMS, WhatsApp and email. This allows brands to personalise the customer experience and meet their expectations.
“It is important to understand where your customer is coming from. For instance, when people place COD orders, they want to be sure that they are present with the cash at the time of delivery. In such cases, we always send out order confirmations via WhatsApp for convenience. It also helps build customer trust and maintain transparency. Besides, we send a shipment tracker link on WhatsApp and via email,” said Siyal of Snitch.
Managing Customer Expectations Beyond The Metros
The rapid rise of quick commerce, where products are delivered within 10-30 minutes, has dramatically changed consumer mindset. Today, shoppers demand quick deliveries from traditional ecommerce brands and are willing to pay more for the desired speed.
This trend has gone viral beyond metropolitan cities. “In our experience, Tier 2 and 3 have witnessed substantial growth in order volume and revenue in the past few years. But shoppers in these areas are also very particular about express deliveries,” said Mangla of Pickrr.
In an earlier conversation with Inc42, Mangla revealed that in CY22, the 3PL player added more than 50 digital first brands to its client portfolio with same-day/next-day delivery requirements and completed around 10 Mn shipments in every quarter.
He said that to achieve complete customer satisfaction, brands are now focussing on express deliveries where customers can receive orders on the same day or within 24-48 hours. Additionally, they have enabled multiple payment options such UPI, cash on delivery (COD) and more, making e-shopping easier for customers.
“We have already started next-day deliveries pan-India, and we hope to provide same-day deliveries as soon as we have the capital to initiate the process,” said the Snitch CMO.
“Going by our revenue breakup, 70% comes from Tier 1 cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. But Tier 2 is catching up, and we hope to reach every nook and cranny,” Shah of Nepenthe was confident.
But there’s a glitch. Due to product constraints, the brand has yet to provide same-day or next-day deliveries.
“We are in an impulse-buying category. So, it is imperative to offer express deliveries. However, we need temperature-controlled warehousing so that the chocolate does not melt by the time it reaches our customers. Otherwise, it will adversely impact customer experience. We are looking for a warehousing partner who has these facilities.
Until then, Shah is confident that his tasty-healthy chocolates will continue to grab consumers’ attention and keep the business going.
The Journey Ahead
The ecommerce market in India is growing rapidly, and so is the number of online shoppers. According to a Bain & Co. report, there were 180-190 Mn e-shoppers in India in 2021, and they are expected to surpass their U.S. counterparts in the next couple of years. This means India will soon have the second-largest online shopper base. Subsequently, ecommerce penetration in India is expected to double to around 9-10% by 2027 from 4.5% in 2021, the report stated.
Understandably, online brands now have the golden opportunity to expand to untapped regions and acquire new customers. However, maintaining a competitive edge is critical for long-term success. Beyond purchase, focussing on a seamless shipping experience can ensure a strong brand recall and convert one-time shoppers into repeat customers.
But this is not where the journey ends.
For new-age brands, especially those in the early stages of development, it is imperative to focus on customer demand and feedback. “The feedback funnel can provide essential insights into what customers want and how they want it. If brands listen attentively, they can design better sales, marketing and CX strategies to drive high growth,” said Mangla.