Content-driven commerce has emerged as an up-and-coming digital business strategy where brands leverage content for product discovery and brand recall
After its acquisition by Times Internet in 2012, Gurugram-based MensXP, a platform specialising in lifestyle content for men, became one of the pioneers in the content commerce space
The company offers a combination of third-party products and its private label product lines and claims to clock more than 5K daily transactions
Digital commerce is evolving fast, going beyond the likes of Amazon and Flipkart are purely transactional, to influencer-driven social marketing run by Meesho and its ilk. With the rapid transformation, selling is no longer simple, and brands aim to build lasting customer relationships through engaging and personalised customer experience.
One surefire way to gain that competitive edge is through useful and relatable content that establishes a brand’s credibility, enhances its stickiness and drives transactions in the process. But for MensXP, it has happened the other way round.
The platform was initially developed as a comprehensive lifestyle guide for Indian men, featuring value-added content on health and wellness, fashion, grooming, style, entertainment and more. But nearly a decade after its inception and an acquisition later, it evolved into a content-to-commerce company. Now owned by Times Internet (TIL), the men’s lifestyle portal has built diverse product lines for a customer base (read millennial men) that has soaked in its rich content for years.
MensXP is not alone. Several large-footprint content platforms like Mumbai-based Buzzfeed India, Hyderabad’s IncNut Digital, Gurugram-based POPxo and Bengaluru’s The Better India have also entered the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space to leverage their massive user base. They have either launched their own products or partnered with other brands to integrate and sell the latter’s wares on their platforms.
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This new-age spin-off from traditional models has been a win-win for all stakeholders. For one, the trust factor between the platform and its readers is already there due to their long association and interactions over the content. Hence, any product recommended by the platform is mostly valued by its audience and sees high demand.
However, Angad Bhatia, the founder-CEO of MensXP, stressed the company’s long and unique journey that helped build its credibility from the ground up and across every popular touchpoint.
“Back then, we noticed a dearth of online content to help Indian men navigate their social lives. So, MensXP was conceptualised as a bank of most authoritative content around men’s lifestyle,” The CEO said.
Bridging the knowledge gap resulted in a significant following, and in 2012, TIL acquired the platform, given its content direction and traction. At the time, TIL said that the acquisition was to improve MensXP’s content further and expose it to a larger audience.
In 2019, the company made its foray into ecommerce, featuring a wide range of men’s lifestyle products. MensXP has adopted a marketplace model to sell third-party products and further offers its private label to ensure a fulfilling digital experience. Simply put, the brand was building that lifetime value relationship with customer-readers, and the current numbers validate its success.
The content-to-commerce platform claims 185 Mn monthly users, an average daily order volume of 5K+ (including third-party and private label products) and average monthly revenue up to INR 15 Cr in the current financial year, besides 18% month-on-month revenue growth and 32% repeat purchase. It is now targeting a revenue of INR 200 Cr for the next financial year.
Content, Credibility And Commerce: How The 3Cs Were Built
Bhatia had not planned to integrate a commerce strategy when he set up MensXP. A graduate in computer engineering from Canada’s Carleton University, he briefly served as the director of Greenscape Eco Management in 2008. But keen to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, he left the company and started MensXP as a publishing platform built on the back of SEO for greater reach.
While building a community for men, Bhatia meticulously tracked the rising trends across social media to speed up growth. The platform started creating a high volume of video content and began trending on social media in 2012. The acquisition by TIL also helped the platform invest more to emerge as a social-first entity and ride the fast-paced growth wave.
According to Bhatia, the acquisition kicked off a series of events that enabled both parties to understand consumer behaviour better and formulate a holistic strategy that would eventually lead to content-driven commerce. “Times Internet was an ideal platform to build MensXP. Culturally aligned, strategically charged, the TIL ecosystem enabled us to emerge as one of India’s biggest men’s verticals,” he said.
Incidentally, the parent company had made several acquisitions at the time to build its digital commerce playbook. After MensXP, the media giant acquired music platform Gaana, video streaming platform MX Player, real estate portal Magic Bricks, restaurant booking app Dineout and more. Bhatia credited this fast-paced buildup as a critical trigger that led him to experiment with the next phase of digital growth.
In September 2019, MensXP conducted a global market study to gauge the potential for affiliate marketing. After receiving positive feedback, the company onboarded its first partner brand to begin the marketplace operations and also launched its first private label line of men’s grooming products.
It has now partnered with more than 700 brands, including popular D2C companies such as Ustraa, The Man Company, Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo, LetsShave, mCaffeine, Plum Goodness and Man Matters. It currently offers more than 60K products under three broad categories — men’s fashion, grooming and wellness. The company claims 5K+ daily transactions due to a strong content foundation for discovery and brand recall.
Challenges And Growth
Taking the leap from content to commerce is always a difficult task, given the critical operational requirements around product development, supply chain (both procurement and shipping to customers) and end-to-end order processing. But Bhatia thought it was an expansion of his passion despite many challenges.
“After spending so many years in the lifestyle content space, we realised what millennial men were looking for and how mainstream brands failed to deliver those products. So, we decided to fill the need gap by bringing relevant products under our umbrella,” he said.
The company specialises in products that solve the everyday problems of modern Indian men and expands its offerings to white spaces where product innovation has been stagnant. It also leverages AI-driven solutions to predict users’ concerns regarding grooming, skin and hair issues and recommend the most suitable products.
Even then, convincing customers about new categories and products took a lot of explanation and education.
For instance, when the company introduced BB creams and concealer sticks under its beauty and skincare brand MensXP Mud (yet another private label range), it required a lot of interaction to work around the traditional zeitgeist of Indian men. However, MensXP’s content- and community-focussed approach gives it the advantage of staying in touch with its target audience all the time compared to other companies that only focus on selling products.
Another major challenge was the fast response time on the website and the mobile app to help customers access real-time updates in the shortest possible time.
To counter this, the company has real-time integrations with all its courier partners through their APIs, “so any update happening on the order status (example – ‘out for delivery’) at the courier end gets reflected in our internal systems instantly. The same is relayed to the customer across communication channels including WhatsApp/Email/SMS/App Notification and also made available in the user’s order section in real-time,” Bhatia explained.
Although MensXP has added ecommerce to its offerings, the content remains its backbone. “We are a publisher first. We cherish our communities, and for us, the foray into ecommerce was the means of furthering the experience for our users who were visiting MensXP as a source of their daily lifestyle fuel. We aimed to further the funnel by building a seamless experience to offer brands that align with our publishing values and the aesthetics of the modern young Indian men,” said Bhatia.
Comparing itself with NykaaMan, Bhatia told Inc42 that the company would adopt industry best practices to bring in more private label product lines and brands under its umbrella. It intends to integrate product discovery (via content) and transaction (commerce) processes to build a more engaging and seamless customer experience.
Globally, both social and live commerce segments are estimated to grow exponentially, of which content (text, audio and video) will be an integral part. A report by Redseer says that live commerce is expected to cross $4-5 Bn by 2025, while the global social commerce market is estimated to touch $1.2 Tn by that time, according to consulting firm Accenture. Better still, most of this shopping revolution will be built around content, and India will remain at the forefront of this growth, primarily driven by millennial and Gen Z customers who are likely to account for 62% of the spending, says the Accenture report.
Add to that a burgeoning men’s personal care market, set to reach $276 Bn globally by 2030, and the road ahead for MensXP and its ilk seems quite promising. The leaders in this segment will be those who can build a lasting connection with consumers through relevant content and create a fluid experience that overlaps the boundaries of content and commerce.