By Kapil Makhija
The growth of e-commerce and maturing online shoppers has led to the growth of e-commerce and D2C brands in India. Post lockdown there has been a significant surge in D2C brands, companies are now investing in setting up their own online stores. Brands are adopting the direct-to-consumer approach to develop a strong connection with consumers and offer a personalized brand experience. While brands are well aware of the benefits of establishing D2C operations, a large number of companies are yet not able to build a strong online presence due to their complex business operation and stiff competition from marketplaces and peers in the industry.
Companies often find it difficult to sustain operations on brand websites for two key reasons; limited brand awareness and seamless shopping experience throughout the purchase cycle. These concerns can be easily addressed with the help of technology. We have listed down various technology solutions that businesses can adopt in order to build robust D2C operations.
Leveraging online Store solution to its full potential
As a company starts selling online and develops a brand website, they have to ensure that website is aesthetically good with great pictures and it’s mobile-friendly along with all the payment options including COD. While these are important factors, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Here are some of the lesser-known factors that may look insignificant but can have a huge impact while designing a brand website:
- Faster loading pages and strong product recommendations to keep the consumer engaged, the longer time they spend on the website, the higher the chance they will buy products.
- Visual appeal improves engagement for consumers, the right set of pictures and information can help in faster conversion rate.
- One of the biggest issues in e-commerce shopping is ‘Cart abandonment, where users exit due to a cumbersome buying process with multiple pages and details to be shared. For example, a brand should allow users to make purchases as a “Guest User” or ‘log-in with Facebook and Google’ instead of asking them to fill a huge form. Also, remember to use the word a ‘cart’ instead of ‘bag’, this may sound useless but plays an important role.
- The “Checkout” page should be simple with limited “Call to Action” clicks as you don’t want to re-direct consumers to other products or information pages, right before they are about to make a final purchase.
Inventory management and order management solutions for error-free deliveries
As the company starts selling through multiple online and offline channels, the company needs to automate the process by ordered allocation and inventory management. The multiple sales channels may lead to a situation of stock-out or order duplication, with no clear visibility of inventory listed for different customer touchpoints. A D2C brand must invest in inventory management solutions to keep a centralised database of inventory across multiple warehouses and stores, with full visibility of stock movement and order management solutions to enable quick order processing by integrating all sales channels into one single platform. The Inventory management solution ensures timely and error-free tracking of stocks, sales, and revenue while cutting back on the manual efforts. On the other hand, the Order Management solution helps in automatically allocating orders to the right fulfillment source basis various criteria, such as location, stock availability, demand channel, delivery preference, etc.
Warehouse management solution for smooth supply-chain operations
Supply-chain operation is the backbone of any e-commerce business and can play a decisive role in the success of a brand. A D2C brand needs warehouse management software that helps in receiving the inventory, placing them on the designated shelf; improving the picking and shipping of orders, and getting real-time information on the inventory and can be integrated into your existing ERP system as well. As there are multiple sales channels, it’s important for WMS solutions to seamlessly process orders of all platforms so that the inventory can be managed accordingly. A strong WMS can immensely benefit your e-commerce and retail business by lowering Labour Costs, enhancing Inventory Accuracy, improving operational flexibility, reducing errors while picking and shipping goods, upgrading customer services, and accessing real-time data.
Logistics integration to ensure faster delivery and minimize returns
A D2C brand must focus on offering a great customer experience that is unique to the brands and finding the right shipping partner plays a key role in it. A brand can achieve faster delivery by collaborating with multiple shipping providers to minimize the risk of fluctuation in serviceability. Once you have multiple shipping partners on board, you can decide on a good and reliable partner based on affordability, speed of delivery, payment options, geographical reach, and return management. This process of evaluation can be easily digitized, where identification of active pin-codes happen over APIs and courier selection is done algorithmically.
Return Management solutions for customer stickiness and increase productivity
Return is an inevitable part of e-commerce operations. Customers are more likely to shop again with a retailer which provides a smooth returns process. It’s important for a D2C brand to invest in a return management solution to manage returns from all the e-commerce channels (brand website and marketplaces). It helps the company to create a Return Manifest for the packages which are shipped by the vendor himself while the system allows creating “Put away Direct returns” to handle a case where the items are returned from the marketplace. The fully automated operations supported with consumer analytics and robust supply chain help is making the process simpler while keeping the product movement in check.
Consumer Analytics Solution to develop brand connect
D2C is not just about selling directly by removing middlemen, it’s about developing a relationship between a brand and its consumer. A brand can leverage consumer data and develop a strong relationship to have consistent brand communication across platforms. A brand can deploy a CRM system that will help them to attract customers, qualify leads, create targeted campaigns, manage customer data, and provide deep consumer insights. It enables companies to rank leads based on multiple factors, which allows them to identify consumers that are likely to buy, leading to improved sales on brand websites. A brand can easily execute personalized email marketing, messaging and notifications based on consumer buying patterns and offer promotions on popular SKU’s, which a consumer is likely to buy. The CRM solution also acts as a valuable support tool for the customer service and sales team. It allows them to immediately pull out all available consumer data like web pages visited, previous purchases, shipping details, and other relevant information.
While the above technology solution is important to have and can help an organization grow leaps and bounds, all this can only yield results if you have a great team to leverage these solutions. A company can no more consider this as another vertical under modern trade, e-commerce operation needs a dedicated team with relevant experience. E-commerce operations is a complex process so one must have a dedicated team for various verticals like operations, logistics management, customer service, marketing, and website design team.
These solutions will play a vital role in streamlining the backend operation to ensure smooth product movement while reducing the business operations cost. The automation helps in ensuring error-free and timely product deliveries leading to a great customer experience, which goes a long way in developing a strong relationship with consumers.
The author is a CEO of Unicommerce. Views expressed are personal.