As brands try to find a sign of semblance post a period of uncertainty, it has become more important than ever to understand and evolve as per changing consumer expectations. From selling goods online to incorporating consumer feedback are some of the ways brands are trying to remain relevant. Shantanu Deshpande, founder and CEO, Bombay Shaving Company talks about how brands and agencies can engage with their consumers–
On the playbook, brands and agencies need to adopt in the new normal
Brands and agencies were circumspect during the early days of the lockdown. This societal and economic shock to the system has had serious repercussions for brand custodians across every vertical, no matter how sheltered their revenue streams might have previously seemed. The global pandemic posed the need for a new crisis playbook. Key lessons that have already emerged are:
- The Covid-19 pandemic has established a new normal, “digital first” lifestyle for the majority of the global population. Consumption habits have changed.
- Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands drove into the pandemic and adapted to it to catch the digital shift. One was driven by demand; the other was driven by necessity. These are the brands that have either created new product categories, new business models or pivots on their previous business models.
- Healthy India is a big theme and it is playing out in many ways. Consumers want to invest in personal care and in their wellness on a regular basis. They are looking for ways of tracking their fitness parameters from home and changing what they eat and drink and improving their overall lifestyle to improve their fitness scores. They are buying nutritional supplements and food products which promote wellness. Clean label products are in demand.
- Customers care about what you stand for – Gen Z and Alpha are very concerned by what’s happening to the climate, and they want their purchases to mean something.
- Lastly communicate empathy, transparency and authenticity – Especially in times like these when people are more reliant on digital connections, campaigns should be crafted in a way that humanizes the brand behind them.
On the gradual return of the business – how much of its restored and the new trends which can be spotted compared to pre-Covid times
Covid-19 has helped us to accelerate innovation in technology, product, and brand. Online business has scaled faster as new consumers are opting for online over offline. Digital adoption by consumers is at an all-time high and being an online-first brand we have got a natural edge over the competition. Overall, covid has come as an opportunity for us in fast-tracking our growth plans. We as a brand believe strongly in investing in omni channel play for long term equity and continue to ramp up presence in offline stores. We sharply focussed on profitable growth with more efficient cost and supply chain management. We were agile into launching innovative products into the woman shaving category and saw quick adoption across customers from more than 500 cities/towns. Our focus also turned towards superfoods-based grooming solutions that aimed to give consumers naturally sourced alternatives to their daily-use products.
On how brands can create at-home meaningful experiences for consumers
Brands, in the wake of the new normal, need to understand the changes in the consumption patterns of their consumers. They need to know what will work for them in this short run and also propose ways to keep their customers safe. They need to be more empathetic and understanding of the dangers associated with the experiences they are to offer with their products/services.
Also, as consumers these days are beginning to focus more on the story behind a product – how it is made and its ingredients, brands need to play around this very fact. They need to sell not just a ‘what’ but ‘what it is’ to the intelligent consumer. People are also constantly trying to fit into a healthier lifestyle these days, as mentioned above. Therefore, ‘Healthy’ is the way to go about for brands. We also saw a huge demand for women’s grooming solutions and needs being fulfilled at home through DIY solutions and that’s how we launched our Defender For Her razor to deliver on that need along with our gender-neutral range of shaving foams, scrubs, hair oils and much more.
On the contribution of online versus offline outlets and how brands can make the most of the shift towards digital
With people spending much more time on social media platforms than ever before, brands need to shift focus to their digital operations and activate effective engagement solutions to connect and interact with their target audience. D2C and online commerce has really exploded this year. Besides our web customers, there is a considerable chunk of offline shoppers who have now migrated online. We are leveraging this segment by concentrating heavily on digital marketing by offering minimum value discounts, curating occasion-based gifting solutions, social media contests and special sale days to incentivise our customers to buy more.
On how the personal care category has evolved and the steps to be undertaken by brands to connect within tier 2, 3, 4 markets and beyond
The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated and morphed consumer trends globally, with most shoppers now seeking out beauty and personal care brands and products perceived as clean, ethical and community-focused. Studies show that shoppers are looking for products with recognisable ingredients and they’re willing to pay more for items using “better-for-you” ingredients. The next big trend in the natural personal care product market? Superfoods! These ingredients are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and phytonutrients, which have a range of topical benefits. Health benefits of superfoods are well known in the F&B industry and their success among consumers is now extending to skin care. Indeed, beauty products enriched with these “miracle” grains and fruits are becoming more and more popular with consumers. Hence Bombay Shaving Company personal care and grooming products now include superfoods like avocado, honey, turmeric, coconut extracts etc. and we are registering continued growth. We closed FY20 with gross annualised revenues of Rs 40 crore. We have seen a huge jump and expect to close FY21 with gross annualised revenues of Rs 105 crore.
The sanitizers segment is also fast-evolving in the country. Due to a tremendous increase in usage of the sanitizers and disinfectants in our daily routine, consumers are now seeking nature powered alternatives to keep themselves safe, without giving harmful overdose of chemicals and alcohol to their skin. Given the huge opportunity for growth for a “softer” or “less chemical-heavy” yet effective range of sanitizer products we launched Herbatol Plus. Its early days but again we have received a fabulous market response.
In terms of connecting with tier 2, 3, 4 markets and beyond, there’s immense scope for D2C brands like us to widen their reach and leverage the potential of these largely untapped markets. Almost one-third of our traffic come from tier 2 and tier 3 markets. Markets such as Pune, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and others have been contributing heavily to our demand in the last year or so. Our target is to drive 50% demand from these markets in the next few years.