Direct to Consumer Brand

Amuleek Singh BijralFounder and CEOChai Point“Things are not what they seem. Nor are they otherwise” - From a Buddhist Sutra

In our world of food and beverages, a definite reality is taking hold. Brands are being built and adopted by a direct delivery route to the customer. The old distributor driven aisle shelf space is not going away – that is why I love the header quote - but the new route is certainly changing the very game of brand building. In this small piece I am taking the opportunity to share my thoughts around this exciting new avenue.

At Chai Point we have witnessed the power of direct to consumer (D2C) brand building in our Chai-On-Call business. There are thousands of customers who know of us straight from our delivery format and have never ventured inside any of our stores. Their perception of us is based on their experience ofour authentic Chai - packaged in our iconic disposable heat retaining flask. They discover us through the internet – in ~90 percent of cases through the mobile. And the pace with this is happening is amazing. With a very sane customer acquisition cost, we have seen this business grow 8percent-10percent mom – translating to 250percent-300percent annual growth.

Omni-channel is the new reality. Not a fancy buzzword. Not an excuse - justthe new reality. It sounds cool but it’s challenging to get an organization tuned to an omnichannel mode of working. Product design, packaging, delivery ops, online responsiveness, marketing and ensuing margin sensitivity – everything changes. But it has to be done. The customers of today are giving businesses like us no option.

With the largest organized network of Chai stores in the country and set to grow much bigger, we at Chai Point have seen“Direct to Consumer” build of our brand taken on a stronger and stronger hold with literally every passing month. Driven foremost by ready to drink Chai but, in a very deliberate fashion, we are now taking our brand straight into the households via the packaged route.

What are the key things that we are quite clear of as we deepen our game?

  • Product has to do all the taking. Product has to be a killer. Quality has to be outstanding and consumption experience of the product has to be world-class.
  • Immediate after the product quality, packaging and design matters. There is no sales person to do the explanation here. Packaging has to foremost take care of ease-of-use and then address all base level customer queries.

  • Discovery of the product is digital and this means the science of digital marketing has to be mastered. We have learnt after a few missteps – primarily in hiring – that digital marketing is a firm science. No point in thinking of it otherwise.

  • User interface matters. No one enters a physical store front that is shoddy and ill-kept. Equally true for online interfaces. Limitation of space compounds the challenge for the mobile. Again lots of learnings for us here – primarily to do with a balance of in-house vs. out-house build-up of technology. Without question UI has to be an internal strategic call.

  • In the digital discovery world branding design and copy matters a lot. Design and copy has to communicate a highly differentiated story. Think mobile first. And this also implies:

  • a. Small interface.
    b. Impatient customers with 2-5 seconds of attention span.
    Again this is an extremely strategic internal company agenda.
  • There are firm thumb-rules of user psychology and behavior in the online world – mastering them ASAP is key.

  • We are also learning that though social media matters a lot, the web-site is far from passé. It has to be refreshed and revisited regularly. It’s a live operational being – keeping it relevant and high impact calls for planning and focus.

  • Frequency matters and needs to be diligently pursued i.e. cohort analysis. Frequency is the best measure of D2C brand build up. Not fueled by mad discounts but based on the full interface, delivery, and final product consumption experience.

  • Pilot and learn. Pilot again and relearn. Finalize an execute plan. Measure results. Improve further. Repeat.

  • As I write this piece, the happy anxiety of improving and working through all of the above-listed steps is getting even more apparent to me. And that is the nature of the beast here.

    Discovery of the product is digital and this means the science of digital marketing has to be mastered

    Number one, you need to get your digital business team structure in place. By business team I mean not only the full gamut of marketing roles (design, copy, website management, social media management, performance marketing) but also the digital sales and associated supply chain engine. It needs to be appreciated that a digital business team’s operational management is an intense and relentless task.

    For an omnichannel brand this foremost means the resources to fuel these streams. But also equally important is the management’s ability to structure and orchestrate the overall brand build-up across the brick and mortar world of in-face customer interactions and experiences as well as the digital world of hyper-fast and convenience fueled customer interactions.