6 Leading D2C Brands Share Their Offline Plans
D2C brands do not want to miss out on any opportunity to expand their offline presence while also focusing on selling through their website
The shutting down of retail showrooms galvanized many brands to pivot to the direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model to keep their businesses alive. Overnight, they were forced to learn the art of direct digital selling. However, for startups such as boAt, SUGAR Cosmetics, Wow Skin Sciences and many others that were already operating in the D2C space, it was a joyride. This brought them to the limelight.
Today, D2C is the new normal. According to an Avendus report, India’s D2C business is going to be worth $100 billion in five years.
However, with stores opening up, D2C brands do not want to miss out on any chance to expand their offline presence as well while simultaneously focusing on selling through their website. As consumers show pent-up behavior, they believe that offline will always be relevant.
We at Entrepreneur India asked some leading D2C about their offline presence and expansion plans.
SUGAR retails through 10,000-plus stores, out of which 70 are exclusive brand outlets and kiosks. In line with its aggressive retail expansion plans, it launched 19 stores in July 2021 and in a first for the brand, it even ventured into high-street stores with 10 outlets in cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Jalandhar, Bhatinda and Nagpur.
The rest of its retail footprint across 130-plus cities pan India is covered through modern trade outlets like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, etc., and various general trade outlets. SUGAR also has a growing international retail presence across Dubai, UAE and Russia.
Talking about expanding offline presence, Vineeta Singh, CEO and co-founder, SUGAR Cosmetics, said, “Building strong distribution offline is one of the main pillars for SUGAR’s expansion plans. In tandem with that, we expect our offline presence to triple over the next two quarters.”
SUGAR Cosmetics was digital-only till 2017 via its own website and other leading e-commerce partners. However, by early 2018, it ventured into general trade channels and large-format retailers in malls, followed by a quick progression to launching exclusive brand outlets and kiosks. By 2019-end, it had also launched a brand-owned mobile app. It decided to go aggressive on our omnichannel approach to be able to grow the brand and continues to do so.
“While COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown led to a spike in online sales for most brands, including us (online sales increased to around 60 per cent of our revenue in 2020) by the November 2020 festive season, retail markets bounced back to pre-covid levels. This backed with our own retail sales numbers has compelled us to double-down on growing our offline presence,” Singh added.
In 2020, at a time when the pandemic spelled doom for offline retail and brands were cutting back on physical retail, MyGlamm launched its experiential 3000 sq ft flagship store designed by New York City-based School House in Mumbai’s Juhu neighborhood. MyGlamm changed things up and offered customers what is called a ‘phygital’ experience, a term that refers to the blend between physical and digital consumer experiences. Currently, MyGlamm has 20,000 POS across 70 cities in India.
By December 2021, it aims to have 35000 to 40000 POS across 100 cities of India. “To truly be D2C, it is important to be omnipresent. MyGlamm has one simple yet important goal, to be where the consumer is. Furthermore, even though online shopping is increasing in consumer traffic, offline offers consumers an experience online cannot, where customers can actually experience the brand through their products and that engagement with consumers is essential to every brand,” said Darpan Sanghvi, founder and CEO, MyGlamm.
“The average consumer goes through several touchpoints of inquisitiveness, awareness, consideration, trials and purchase - and it isn't always this linear. The online medium offers excellent options at many of these touchpoints but is not always complete. Textures, fragrances, look and feel - these are all left to a post-purchase moment of truth,” said Shankar Prasad, founder and CEO, Plum.
He added that the retail store on the other hand serves as an all-in-one experience across all these touchpoints, and the richness of human face-to-face interaction also adds to the joy of consuming the product.
Prasad believes that at least 85 per cent of all beauty consumption still happens through retail. As long as a brand has the wherewithal to address this market, there is no reason for the brand to sit out of the action.
The skincare brand has been building its distribution presence over the last four years, and now reached over 225 towns and cities in India, through 750-plus assisted outlets, and over 10,000 unassisted outlets.
It also opened its very first exclusive store at R City, Mumbai in August 2021 and plans to open several more in the coming months, to allow consumers to experience brand Plum in its entirety. The startup’s retail presence covers both general trade as well as key accounts such as Health & Glow, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle and other department store chains.
At the moment, the brand has about two Pee Safe exclusive stores that are franchisee-owned and operated. It plans to expand its exclusive line to three more stores, which are currently in the works and will be added in the coming weeks. Pee Safe and Raho Safe products are available in approximately 8,000 retail outlets in general and modern trade across 100-plus cities in India.
With things going back to normal, it intends to expand its offline presence to more than 25,000 retail outlets across the country within the next year.
“Despite the fact that online businesses have expanded at an unprecedented rate in the last 1.5 years, offline retail still accounts for more than 90 per cent of retail business presence. Furthermore, the brand-building derived from offline retail business is irreplaceable because the physical presence/touch involved makes it more impactful, which is one of the many reasons why brands prioritize offline retail to the greatest extent possible,” said Vikas Bagaria, founder and CEO, Pee Safe.
Bombay Shaving Company
Presently, Bombay Shaving Company’s products are available across 25,000 top stores in national and regional chains, stand-alone stores, cosmetics and top stores in pharma and grocery channels. The current presence is across 100 top cities of India and 3 international geographies.
Even though the brand’s major brand building and storytelling will happen through D2C and online, it expects brick-and-mortar retail to continue to dominate the sales over the next five years. It expects that more than 90 per cent of sales for the category will come from offline retail. “For a new-age brand, it becomes imperative to be available where the customers are and dominate the point of sales through impressive visual displays to create awareness and consideration for our brand. Offline distribution will be a multi-year growth story for us and we have very strong plans for sustainable offline expansion with things coming back to normalcy,” Shantanu Deshpande, founder and CEO, Bombay Shaving Company told us.
The D2C fine jewelry brand has 6 physical experience centers in Bengaluru, Delhi/NCR and Bhopal combined currently. It claims to be a digital-first brand and that the experience centers are a seamless extension of its online store.
Melorra aims to launch 350 experience centers pan India in the years ahead. “Experience is an essential aspect of Melorra’s approach. Through our physical experience centers, we want to ensure better customer service. Customers can choose products online and place the order offline at any of our physical outlets or vice versa. In this era of hybrid retail, we have created the brick-and-mortar stores as a seamless expansion of the online retail platform,” said Saroja Yeramilli, founder and CEO, Melorra.
Yeramilli believes that the dream for any D2C brand is to be loved by the audiences and to connect with the masses that use the kind of products sold by the brand. “To achieve this objective, a hybrid market presence is essential in a country like India. We are a digital-first brand and shall always be, but a majority of our target audiences are still used to purchasing jewelry online,” she said.
Even among the ecommerce aware customers, the brand has observed that there is a tendency to check the designs online, but buy the products offline as they want to physically experience the product. “Sometimes, a customer might not be keen on waiting for delivery or might have any other concerns which make access to in-person purchases essential. Therefore, as a growing brand with pan India coverage goals, opening exclusive offline stores is an important element in our brand expansion strategy,” she said.
Shanthi specialises in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.