2 min read
Saksham Mendiratta
Sink, Float, Swim: The D2C Pandemic Survival Guide

Crazy survival instincts - when you’re handling a business, that’s what’ll matter most when the chips are down.

Earthquake or pandemic, you’ll find plenty of bodies and businesses shutting shop to make it through. You’ll also find those who work ten times harder because of it. As COVID-19 brought scarcity and disease upon us last year, shoe companies started making face-masks, and 3D-printer ventures started making ventilators. There are some businesses that sank, some that stayed afloat, and some that found a way to keep swimming. 

This is an inescapable insight when we look at how well ecommerce did in a year of mass lockdowns. In my conversation with Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands, about direct-to-consumer marketing (D2C), we speak in light of a most basic premise; airwaves for airways, you could only talk to your customers when they sat behind their laptops. D2C businesses have been building consumer relationships online from their inception, and through his work with Sharma Brands, Nik himself is something of a veteran. 

Given our new circumstances, how exactly was D2C powering through and what can we make of them today?

The pressure was on

  • No more in-person or window shopping.
  • It was perhaps impossible now not to brand with cognisance and relevance of something so world-wide.
  • Your consumer was working-from-home, confined to its interior.

Who was in the best position to adjust to this new normal?

D2C - swimming circles around the rest

D2C’s have a long-practiced ability to meet these challenges. As Nik mentions in our conversation, the foundations of a good D2C brand are its

  • content messaging (think about the emails and newsletters you’re getting from your brands)
  • the community around its product
  • personalisation of product fulfilment.

The pandemic burned every physical bridge between the consumer and brand. This did not seem to disturb D2C brands, whose fundamental business practices involve their customers in ways that have not depended on these physicalities, and in a manner that must anyway call for being regularly communicative in its content.

What does this mean?

Brands like Judy, Poo-pourri and Haus that have operated from the start on a direct basis, cut out intermediaries and moved away from conglomerate approval, are symptoms of a successful, growing digital culture of consumerism. Here, the only thing between you and your buyer is an internet connection. And this equation became a desired reality for many more in 2020’s new COVID-sphere. 

The proof is in decentralisation

Like those fountains that feed the water back into themselves, brands are becoming more responsible for facilitating loops of communication and accountability with their patrons. What we’re seeing through a greater online-creator economy is an increasing decentralisation of business itself, paying off majorly in a time of global crisis. “E-commerce as a whole has seen a massive increase [in 2020], one that would have probably taken 8-10 years to see otherwise”, according to Nik. COVID-19 has forced business creativity and growth in a way that came natural to some players, who now perhaps represent the future of brand-consumer relations. 

What next?

In other words, those who “swam” could show us what matters in branding here on out. For instance, when Nik says he likes “explaining the why, not the what, and that’s usually easier to do through content”, he emphasises that content marketing is a new feature of priority among creators like him. With Design Grid, we’re diving deep into other priorities like this as they change over time. Looking at the models, mindsets and products that have made unflappable strides, we’re learning survival instincts from the best.