From PepsiCo to Britannia, brands step up to the digital storefront

Brands have flocked to apps such as Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato among others to set up their stores, packaging their fare around the needs of the platform and customers
Launch a delivery app, any of the several that have rapidly mushroomed over the past month, and a colourful bunch of familiar logos pop up. Jostling for space on the screen are tiny visual identifiers that Coca-Cola India, PepsiCo India, Britannia, HUL, P&G and a slew of big brands have used to mark their designated e-stores. Shut out of the familiar supply chain networks, big brands are relying increasingly on small start-ups to find their way back into game. But as they do that, their virtual storefronts are creating a new design language and by using a combination of factors—logo, placement and delivery process—defining an all new direct-to-customer experience. 

Brands have flocked to apps such as Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato among others to set up their stores, packaging their fare around the needs of the platform and customers. In the process, the big brands are learning much more about the people they serve as they have greater control over display, design and customer data than they did in the past, be it in their alliances with the e-commerce giants or local supermarkets.

“From the brand’s purview, one of the key features is that the marketers can get a direct access to the customer behaviour, such as a pattern in the consumption timing and so on. These patterns are often important for brands to analyse and further use as reference points while strategising their marketing strategies,” said Dilen Gandhi, senior director and category head–Foods, PepsiCo India that has tied up with delivery app Dunzo for an e-store. 

(From left) Kwality Walls prominently uses its logo and colours to advertise its e-store, while Hershey’s and Coca-Cola promote their product portfolio and Britannia has turned its popular jingle into a mnemonic for the brand

E-stores are not a short term phenomenon, say experts, even if they have emerged as a solution for an immediate problem. Hence brands would need to invest into the channel, much like they did when building a distribution and promotion platform with small stores and big supermarkets. It is a way to connect and adapt with the new marketplace. 

Brands must beat their own path to the customers’ doorstep, for the pandemic has made it clear that it is not enough to have a strong distribution network, or prime space in supermarkets.  Without accessibility, the customer is likely to disengage from the brand. In that context, the direct-to-customer (D2C) channel is more than a transactional interface. It is a way to renew the familiarity and recall that many brands have built with their customers.

According to EY’s latest report ‘COVID-19 and emergence of a new consumer products landscape in India’, 60 per cent of Indian consumers believe the way they shop would change. In the early stages of the pandemic, consumers were worried about the health of their families and meeting their basic needs. These common concerns are manifesting themselves in different ways, the report said. Gandhi said that PepsiCo India is taking a long term view on the brand e-store, but volumes of orders generating via direct-to-customer (D2C) platforms will be put in consideration and evaluated. PepsiCo is not the only brand to recalibrate its presence in the marketplace, Britannia has one for its cookies, Amul has done the same with its value-added dairy products and HUL and P&G have set up a similar network. 

Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, said that the e-store is something that has become a sudden necessity from being a mere digital fad for the big brands. As a result, he added, the big gainers have been Dunzo that was the first to leverage the opportunity and also Zomato and Swiggy. “This has caused action and traction for each of their business models,” he said. Dunzo, which started out as an ‘item’ delivery app, reports that the average order value has increased 4x on the app. It is focused on the eight metro cities at present, but brands want a pan-India presence and this makes the food delivery apps an attractive proposition. 

According to a spokesperson for Swiggy, the company has worked towards building a sustainable ecosystem for all its partners. The lockdown led to a significant increase in consumer interest to order groceries through the app and this led to a partnership with brands such as HUL, P&G, ITC, Godrej, Dabur, Marico and others. “While almost 75 per cent of all grocery orders on the platform are from the top 15 cities, Swiggy noticed a higher AOV (average order value) of 7-10 per cent from the smaller cities,” the spokesperson said.

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