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E-Commerce an Integral Part of the Startup Growth Journey A strong social media presence coupled with accurate targeted ads will cement your performance-led marketing that needs to be the frontline of your marketing strategies

By Sumant Kakaria

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Touted as a global start-up hub, India has seen the rise of over a thousand startups in the previous year. While the start-up life seems to hold great appeal and promise when we read positive media reports on breakthrough innovations, funds raised and soaring valuations, the fact remains that keeping a new venture afloat is a demanding and unrelenting task before it turns into a strong profitable and sustainable business that generates value.

If the idea behind a start-up is innovative, their unique proposition can give them a stronger "right to win' in an oversaturated market. However, just having a great idea is never enough! The way you communicate it and the channels through which your product reaches the market spell the difference between flying and failing.

Starting Right is Half the Battle Won

Starting up can seem akin to waging a war sometimes. You need a good game plan to ensure you conquer the market armed with the right marketing tools and a product which offers differentiation to make you stand out.

A well contemplated marketing strategy will help you capture customer attention to reel them in, because oftentimes there are no second chances in the startup battleground.

In the initial days of starting up, building a robust marketing strategy aimed at your target audience will strategically help you build your customer base. While larger organizations can tap into the existing ecosystem which surrounds them with support for strategy building, start-ups can find eCommerce to be a supportive and powerful platform.

Discovery to Delivery

While some businesses may prefer to start off with a traditional go-to-market strategy, there are multiple benefits of eCommerce that make it a lucrative option to test the waters. The most obvious advantage being that it comes at a lower cost while also offering a larger geographic reach. From a customer perspective as well, buying through eCommerce makes the process of discovery easier and the purchase becomes more time and cost effective. But before sales, we need to ultimately ask, "How high is the demand for my product?"

In the eCommerce environment, startups can have greater control over their inventory and also save on crucial real estate costs that can be detrimental especially in the early days of the business. Additionally, piloting new products and testing demand in different target audiences becomes easier here.

Marketing Mantras

The next step to growing your base is marketing. But, startups often tend to get overenthusiastic about their product and burn money trying to reach everyone. Here, the wiser step would be to start small and look at connecting with your potential consumer at various digital touch points in their lives. A strong social media presence coupled with accurate targeted ads will cement your performance-led marketing that needs to be the frontline of your marketing strategies. The related conversion funnel that you see through your eCommerce platform should help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of the consumer response. The metrics can also help you decide if more expensive means of advertising will bring in the necessary ROI. The real time data that you get from these platforms should influence your business plans in the long run.

What to Watch Out For

One of the key mistakes that startups make while engaging through ECommerce platforms is that they immediately prioritize transactions and look to achieve short-term goals. While the platforms do facilitate this, startups need to ensure that they are analyzing their learnings from these transactions and simultaneously integrating it into their larger strategies. The main takeaway here is that ECommerce platforms need to be looked at from a much broader lens than just a means of customer acquisition.

Ultimately, partnering with eCommerce platforms is a forward-looking step for startups. By 2022, over 60per cent of the Indian population will have access to smartphones and are looking for products and services that are available at their fingertips. Most platforms have recognized this trend and have adopted the "m-commerce' revolution. In the next 3-5 years, we'll be looking at a higher rate of eCommerce penetration and a transformation in the core business model of major players. Simply put, innovation can move further and faster when it is hand in hand with ECommerce. Every pathbreaking idea, be it a product or a service stands to benefit from the dynamism, reach and flexibility that such platforms have to offer.

With the right positioning and outreach, eCommerce can be an efficient bridge connecting you with your customer and helping the scaling up of your enterprise without burning a hole in your pocket.

Sumant Kakaria

Marico E-Commerce Business Head and mentor of MIF scale-up program

Specialist in transforming businesses. After a rich experience at Asian Paints and Godrej, he has successfully established a footwear label 'Solethreads', which is a profitable bootstrapped venture. Still an entrepreneur at heart, his last 2 assignments have been about setting up businesses from scratch. With considerable expertise in Digital as well as offline GTM strategy, he also mentors startups to help them scale-up.
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