Stick on to the core product offering to differentiate in a market
Ishita Sharma was working with a media house when she founded Candidly Couture. She wanted to start this venture because there were many established .com’s selling fashion but even in established ecommerce sites the customers have to go through 1000’s of items to buy something fashionable. She thought of having a curated item list which will make it easy for the customers to buy. She set up a Facebook page with the same name and began listing out her curated selection of apparel and accessories. Her Co-Founder Devi Prasad Biswal got to know about the idea earlier enough but was not ready to take the plunge then and went to the US to work in Wall Street, he joined late last year. The Facebook page became a fully functional website thereafter.
Ishita says that every startup needs to have some failures to correct itself in the market. She was a compulsive shopper in many websites world-over and she could feel that if she wanted to buy something, she had to spend hours to get the right product but did not want to spend the time as she had very little time for this. So , she figured out that her problem was something that the market will also face and had a logical hunch. People were willing to spend the money but did not know where to put the money in. Ishita recollects that she should have started with a website instead of Facebook only from day one, but the fact that she was an one woman company with no funding, she had to limit herself to what she was doing.
Her first website was on Shopify. It was not a great thing those days because it took a lot of time to do payment gateways and did the Cash On Delivery model and she assumed that the bigger logistics providers will not be interested to sign up with small ecommerce players as the volumes will not be good. So she signed up with a startup logistics company and that did not work for her because the logistics company was just setting up operations in India and they were not able to spread out their logistics all over India. Being an online company, small spurts of businesses came in from all over the country and the delivery mechanisms were bad. It took a longer time than that was promised on the web and many times, they were losing the packages which was a disaster. Reputation was very important and if a customer does not receive the products on time, they will not come back to buy for the second time. She began her search for a better agency and started talking to them but was pleasantly surprised that they were willing to sign up and she realized that her assumption had cost her quite a bit. The only caveat was that the larger players were charging a little more because of the low volumes.
Talking about the platform(website), they stuck to the collections on Facebook which they had kept for more than an year from which they learnt what the customers liked and which ones they did not. They maintained a small collection with around 60 to 70 designs and they kept updating the collections based on eliminating the ones that was not selling and adding the ones that they thought the consumers will like based on the feedback that they collected. This way, the consumers were happy to see new collections getting updated on the site quite frequently. The buyer persona ranges from teens to women in their 30s. They kept the website as simple as possible because they focussed on woman and many of them were not tech savvy and wanted them to feel the process of buying so easy and kept the user interface simple with an one step checkout process
On the outreach, Facebook was a great springboard and when they started the FB page and the growth was organic at that point in time because the new people came in and liked the page because they heard through friends they stuck on to the page because of the new designs that came in on a daily basis. After that, they found the target audience – defined the buyer persona and also took leads from Pop Culture and did a targeted outreach and refined the persona based on the behaviour of these audience. They did not try in multiple channels as they realised that keeping great content on Facebook was giving them good business. The only other money they spent advertisement is again on Facebook. They also tried through flea market which happens locally. They took part in one of the popular flea markets in Bangalore and they went with the mind-set that they will meet their customers, make some sales, popularize the website and increase the hits. The sales was great and so was the experience , but it took too much of their time for the money they got and did not try it after that one attempt. They kept woman apparel as a MVP to reach a critical size and then have plans to expand into shoes and bags.
Ishitas suggestion to Startup Funders – The latest thing that works is having a great content. People want to know not only about the product but also the things related to the content. Drawing relevant examples from popular movies, sitcoms makes your content more relatable to your customer It works the best and social media is very important in advertisement as it pays off more than the traditional media because people spend more time on social media these days
Candidly Couture (http://www.candidlycouture.com/), has 5 employees and has around 2000 unique visitors. They have been featured on YourStory.