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How to build a great D2C e-store

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Mannu Mathew
Mannu Mathew
With over four years of experience, Mannu Mathew specializes in business journalism with a focus on technology, the retail sector, D2C, and E-commerce brands. He is working as the Assistant Editor for India Retailing and Images Retail Magazine.

Representatives of successful brands share factors to consider, issues to eliminate and tech to embrace when building a D2C e-store that clicks with customers

New Delhi: Today, having an e-store is a business imperative. With COVID-19 changing the dynamics of how businesses operate, e-stores have become an important channel for businesses. They have become a medium to build businesses, communities and connections.

However, building a great D2C e-store necessarily starts with understanding what customers want, why, when, where and how and offering it without any distractions.

Understanding Customers

Business leaders at every stage of work prefer discussions with colleagues and customers on customer preferences. Responses from customers in the form of reviews, face-to-face conversations and posts about products are all good ways to gain customer insights. Even lack of communication from the customers such as not visiting the platform again is a sign that there is scope for improvement.

Understanding customer emotions is also important to building a successful e-store.

“Shopping is an emotional journey,” said retail veteran Sadashiv Nayak. When buying a product for someone or purchasing it for oneself, there are several emotions that individuals pass through. These can be excitement, celebration, fandom, curiosity, happiness, amusement, peace of mind, freedom, empowerment and many more.

Every e-store, whether bootstrapped or successful, should take care of consumer emotions into consideration while strategising, planning and advertising.

Stocking the right items

A crucial factor to be considered while operating a D2C e-store is offering the right product mix for the target audience.

Saumya Kabra, founder of personalised gifting company Confetti Gifts feels that customer feedback about products helps understand what to sell. “We put in a product and see it for months to understand how it is going, how well it is proving that people love it. We also send some samples and once they revert, we get a better understanding of it,” he said.

Simply stocking multiple products without understanding what customers want can confuse customers. Proper segregation of products is what successful e-stores do.

“We have a limited number of boxes placed on the website because we don’t believe in creating a lot of SKUs (stock-keeping units) on the page because it confuses the people at the end,” Kabra added.

Management of Data in D2C e-store

Data is the bread and butter that businesses feed on. When analysing a customer, data provides a clear picture of his or her nature, preferences, style, manner of shopping and even spending habits. However, having lots of data doesn’t ensure revenue or growth if it’s not used properly.

“Sitting on tonnes of data means nothing unless you plan the arrangement or compilation of data in a certain way,” said Pankaj Singh, Head of Growth, Ecom Express, a technology-enabled logistics solutions provider.

Uniqueness and Variety

Customers in India demand more variety and lineup if they like a particular product, observed Harshit Vij, Co-founder & CEO, Freecultr, a sustainable innerwear, loungewear and activewear brand.

For instance, it can be the demand for different colours and prints in a t-shirt, more customisation to a phone case, or good quality material for jeans.

“When we launched, we started with just three basic colours. Currently, we’re sitting at more than 17 colours,” Vij said.

Vij stresses the importance of variety and says that adding the same is important otherwise getting repeat orders becomes difficult.

If a store offers a variety of products, then the chances of getting repeat orders increase multifold, say experts. Having more variety also heats the competition among brands and helps customers get a clear picture of which brands are more versatile and unique.

An approach that helps new brands is the willingness of new-age customers to try and explore new products and that is where the approach of uniqueness comes into play.

“The uniqueness that we add is one small element in every design of the product. We have a very huge team of fashion designers and graphic designers who are continuously evaluating what they’ve created,” said Jugal Kansara, Chief of Staff and Head – Business Strategy, The Souled Store, a brand that offers pop culture merchandise and apparel.

Partnerships and Relationships

Building the right relationships is key to the success of an e-commerce business. These include relationships with customers, vendors, partners, or even influencers.

Relationships can also be done with influencers and consumers and that is where the essence of UGC comes into play. A user-generated content (UGC) can be any content that a consumer creates ranging from images, testimonials, videos and other ways of social media posts.

UGC possess the ability to rope in more customers as it can come from an influencer that people follow or a normal customer who also prefers the same taste and essence of choice of a fellow person browsing through products online.

The Souled Store reported that 90% of its revenue came from products offered in collaboration with partners when it started. The partnership has helped the company design new products and make its presence and identity in the market through its D2C e-store.

At times, partnering for a cause works in the favour of a business. Digital farm-to-fashion B2B marketplace ReshaMandi supports farmers. Krishna Maniyar, Vice President – User Experience, ReshaMandi said that the online front of businesses reflects the business model.

Supply Chain

The supply chain is the backbone of a successful D2C business. This is linked to the management of data, analysis of consumers and partnership and relationships.

A good e-store should have an efficient supply chain right from the raw materials stage to the last mile.

Conditions like geography, ease of reach, efficiency and safety of delivery personnel are all equally important aspects of the last mile. This is where partnering with the right 3PL (Third Party Logistics) players comes into play to help facilitate the process for those who are not resource-rich compared to a marketplace.

Focusing on new-age customers

A very important segment of customers for a D2C business are those who are born with the internet and grew up with it—those born in the late 90s. According to experts these consumers are often the first to spend their own money on an evolution they grew up with.

The entire ecosystem of D2C is thriving on that generation, which includes those from quick commerce because of their willingness to experiment with different brands.

These customers see the standard of living as the main priority and don’t mind spending for it, which bears well for retail. In addition, they are willing to experiment with new brands and businesses.

Hygiene factors for a D2C e-store

The right technology, user experience, and factors like ease of transaction and payment experience are all hygiene factors that an e-store should have.

Based on a panel discussion at the India D2C Summit & Awards, an Images Group event held in June 2023 in Mumbai.

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