Interview: “This festive season we divided spends equally between traditional & digital” Kashyap Vadapalli

Kashyap Vadapalli

Amidst logistics challenges to keep the consumers informed & engaged, Pepperfry leveraged its online channels, evolved logistics & reworked its marketing plan. Kashyap Vadapalli divulges into details and fundamentals of marketing.

As an outcome of the pandemic and the restrictions thereof, ‘home’ has become more important than ever. This has increased interest in the furniture and home décor category and with physical retail impacted due to lockdown and its after-effects, online conversations in the category have increased.

Social Samosa gets in conversation with Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO & Business Head, Pepperfry to know more about the brand’s coping mechanism and dealings, marketing furniture utilizing different mediums, social media strategy, the changing business dynamics, and more.

Excerpts

Interest in online furniture up ~50% over last year and consideration is gaining scale What kind of an impact on sales did Pepperfry witness? What was the strategy adopted on that front?

We saw a full recovery to pre-COVID levels (January/February) by mid-August. Once the lockdown eased and business/service started in mid-June, within a short 8 weeks sales recovered in the back of the increased interest. Most of this recovery was driven via online channels. In the last 3 months (September-November), we’ve seen this recovery continue to strengthen on the back of the interest in the category sustaining and also with the opening of physical retail we saw that our Studio (Pepperfry Studio is the physical experience center format ) influenced business came roaring back.

We focused on the basics of ensuring a safe delivery experience and our marketing messages focused on the following key pillars – education, tips/tricks, information on safety, playing-up product stories, and highlighting our Swadeshi supply strengths.

We also scaled-up performance marketing to capture the relevant interest from the consumers online and convert them.

How challenging were the last few months and how did you derive a plan to cope up with the difficult times?

Given that our online channels were active during March-April, we noticed a backlog in delivery when the lockdown was lifted. Additionally, we faced few challenges regarding logistics – securing permissions from various bodies for an interstate commute of the delivery trucks, securing permission from societies, et al.

Building consumer trust was another key imperative for us to post the lockdown. Considering that furniture is a big-ticket category, which requires doorstep delivery and assembly, we ensured that all our functions were executed with absolute safety precautions in place. We adopted preventive measures like daily tracking of employee health, ensuring complete training on hygiene, use of sanitizers at regular intervals, and disinfecting the complete space and product post-delivery.

Similarly, for resuming operations at our Studios, we decided to adopt a gradual phased approach wherein we ensured proper sanitization of the Studios as well as training the Studio teams to adopt adequate precautions during daily operations and interaction with customers.

During the pandemic, there was a surge in online purchases of furniture. How did you leverage the trend? What was the marketing blueprint like?

Given that the nationwide lockdown helped in accelerating the shift from offline-to-online shopping, we witnessed an increase in our online business which soared to 150% of pre-lockdown levels.

While this increase in interest towards the category was consistent across cities, Pepperfry’s first-time buyers (FTB) business grew at a faster rate than repeat buyers in Tier-2 cities. Overall, our FTB business contribution increased ~500bps for Tier-2 cities and beyond.

In order to aid this shift and cater to our discerning consumers, we launched a ‘Buy on Phone’ program, where-in Pepperfry’s sales consultants speak to buyers and guide them through the furniture buying process, given that many people might not want to venture out into the markets and malls but they might still need consulting to buy furniture.

From a marketing perspective, we adopted a multi-pronged approach for the post lockdown period. The first leg of the strategy commenced with the beginning of the festive season in August wherein we launched a digital campaign called ‘Swadeshi is Great’, across all digital and ambient media. We also supplemented the campaign with the Swadeshi Sale. Both, the campaign and sale, were focused on showcasing and promoting the Indian artisans and their expertise, craftsmanship as well as rich lineage. It encourages consumers to buy Swadeshi furniture not only because it’s Indian but because it’s superior. The sale specifically offered amazing discounts and cashback offers on products that were ‘Proudly Made in India’.

In tune with the growing interest of consumers towards the online furniture category, we rolled out ‘The Pepperfry Advantage’ campaign to highlight to our existing and new consumers Pepperfry’s unique features such as delivery, warranty, and assembly.

Furthermore, taking cognizance of the incredible response of these two campaigns, we launched our ‘Family Times = Pepperfry Times’ TVC-led Diwali campaign which was also amplified across digital platforms and was accompanied by a sale. The campaign emphasizes how furniture directly or indirectly plays a significant role in creating moments and memories that bring the family together.

How was it marketing a furniture brand during the times of COVID? There is a thin line between helpful & optimistic. How did Pepperfry make sure they tread the line?

When the lockdown was imposed in March, our team was quick to make a conscious decision of routing all our consumer-based communications through our owned mediums like email marketing, push notifications and social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

From a situation and brand point of view, we drove conversations that were more relevant, engaging, and interesting. For instance, since movements were restricted, we aimed at addressing the challenges through tips like how to maintain furniture, DIY décor ideas, safe ways to rearrange your furniture, and so on.

We saw an increase in consumer engagement, through these themes.  Additionally, in line with our brand personality of being pioneering, intelligent, and conscious we looked at the content that helped the audience get up to date with the latest in lifestyle choices with a focus on the home through a series of expert interactions. We use interesting formats such as quizzes, trivia to keep the curiosity alive and to achieve high engagement levels.

Also Read: #Interview Ketan Kulkarni, Blue Dart’s logistics & marketing funnel that helped growth

With the ongoing pandemic & sensitive times, please take us through your content strategy across platforms. Which content hooks work the best for the brand? 

There are some key pillars for our content approach – Showcase variety, launch new and unique designs, talk about service and safety, help people beautify their homes, give them reassurance about quality and value, be in sync with the times, and relevant to the moods of the consumer. These over-arching goals translate into different types of messages distributed via various media. Over the last 2-3 quarters, we’ve done the following key initiatives involving content –

  1. Our social media content focused on providing – information/education, trivia, tips & tricks, quizzes, and masterclasses, etc.  This helps to reinforce our standing as a smart and intellectual brand.
  2. Our mass media content focused on telling emotive stories focused on themes such as – family relationships, pride in make-in-India, unique differentiators that will help users convert on the platforms, etc.
  3. Our own channels, website/stores/App, etc. focused on showcasing the variety and designs that we have available on the platform
  4. And performance marketing typically does the job of sales-related and value delivery related communication.

In terms of ad spends, what does your marketing plan for this quarter look like? Please take us through your media mix. What kind of a role does social media play in the next few months for the brand?

Typically, our marketing spends as well as media mix are divided into a 70:30 ratio wherein the larger share is allocated to digital and the remainder to traditional mediums.

This festive season, we decided to divide our spends equally between traditional and digital as well as new age mediums like OTT platforms- Hotstar, YouTube, et al.

Social Media plays the dual role of engaging the audience with innovative content on the lines described previously and thanks to the ability to identify and sharp-target in-market consumers, we also use it for driving performance.

How has social media been helpful in engaging with your consumers? Which platform has yielded maximum results for the brand?

The key task for a brand is to communicate it’s personality and values to the consumers. Social media platforms by design and structure are conducive to content consumption – video, pictures, and text. Consumers are on social media not to get bombarded with brand marketing offers but to get either smarter or to get entertained and we have taken the smart intellectual route to achieve the engagement by informing and entertaining our audience. All key platforms like – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube have been useful for us for various messages to drive the engagement objectives.

How do you envisage the ‘Road to Recovery’ and trends to foresee in the sector?

Going forward an omnichannel presence for a brand is going to be key because consumers cannot be categorized as online or offline shoppers, they choose medium as per their convenience.

From a category perspective, given that work/study-from-home is here to stay, we believe consumers will invest behind a dedicated corner or room for home-office setup whilst doing up one’s home. Furthermore, as consumers continue to seek items that help in increasing the functional and aesthetic aspect of their homes as well as products with premium designs and superior quality, we are expecting a rise in modular designs like modular kitchens and wardrobes. Consumers are also actively investing in products that are lightweight and kinetic as well as flexible furniture that is easily movable, reconfigured, and provides the flexibility to adapt to the situation.

Given the current scenario where consumers have become warier of physical interactions, we are anticipating an expedited shift from conventional carpentry to organized players as it more convenient, quick, and requires minimum physical intervention.


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