How can you build a great DTC brand with Vanshika Mehta
Brands that build consumer trust through personalized and consistent experiences that make consumers' lives easier, focus on delivering with transparency, and authentically telling their stories will likely continue to win with consumers. We deep dive into this with Vanshika Mehta, Brand Strategy Consultant, and Communications Strategist. Vanshika enables first-time and legacy DTC & Tech founders to create memorable brands through Brand Strategy, Storytelling, MarComms, and Copywriting.
1. Why do DTC founders need to have a solid brand strategy framework?
2. The big debate - performance vs brand and which one to pay importance to in the early stages.
3. How to pitch your story with known frameworks that work?
4. How can your website convert or lose your customers?
5. How to create memorable packaging for your DTC brand?
About Vanshika Mehta
Born and raised in Dubai, graduated from Northeastern University in Boston in 2016, moved to India in 2018, quit her job in November 2019, and started my consultancy in 2020.
She has worked with DTC, SaaS, Tech (FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, InsurTech, HRTech) and E-Commerce companies for the last two years.
Some brands she has worked with:
PayU, HROne, Souled Store, Saiyarti, HYPD, Swiggy, Benny's Bowl, DiscoverFIN, Airmeet, Mentza, Heads up for tails, CREEK, HeyCloudy, OriginsNutra, Divertica, Solethreads, Kaeros, Skill Prodigy, ShopWorx, Crater.Club
... and more!
Crossed 100K+ followers on Linkedin
Picked as Linkedin Top Voice, NextGen Creators amongst 20 creators
Accepted into the Linkedin Creator Program
Listed on the 'Top 30 Women in Content: The Ultimate List for 2022' by Pepper Content
Aashish: Why do DTC founders need to have a solid brand strategy framework?
Vanshika Mehta: I think a brand strategy is very important in DTC because brands nowadays need to buy a lot of trust. And the way that you buy trust is by explaining why you exist, apart from the fact that you wanna make money and raise funding.
Nowadays the DTC brand is going neck to neck with every single traditional legacy brand we've ever heard of. Like, for example, if you take even say underwear and you think of jockey, we have bummer. You think of foods, you know, like say nutrition bars, we've got whole truth foods. You think of say even iced teas, you've got brewhouse. And the only reason why and how they'll survive the test of time is with a brand strategy that explains why they exist and what difference they're making in the consumer's life.
It has been shown that a brand with a purpose, a brand with a very strong vision succeeds over a longer time than a brand that is just trying to kind of cut it every day. And I mean, if there is any proof for this, it's the fact of how much funding DTC as a segment has gotten.
Aashish: I get approached by DTC brands on how should they go about building their store experience in the early days. What are the elements which tie up to it?
Vanshika Mehta: Yeah. So I feel initially founders should focus on brand and let performance be the wind under to make their brand fly. But a full dependency on performance I feel is a short formula for disaster because the problem with performance is that performance and tying it to retention is very hard.
Performance might get you first-time users, but it might not be able to get you to get that same person to buy again after 30 days, whereas a strong brand or a brand that is invested in say something as simple as packaging, like how is the experience when you open that package can delight the consumer enough for them to buy it again.
2. Social media organically has such, a high pull if you're posting and engaging in conversation about relevant topics to your audience. About going one step further saying brand or building a brand happens on social because of that you have a loyal community and nothing can beat the fact that you built a community around your brand. Like greatest, the best example of this in recent times is the BLIS club.
It's a DTC brand that does leggings. And it started with the community and then from the community, it became a product. And now they've raised funding.
3. We just talked about the fact that there's a recession that's going to come. A recession means money is short, right? Everybody's going to be kind of cutting corners and trying to make the best of the money they have. Everybody wants their money to take them one mile further. And the first thing that will get cut is your performance marketing budget because it's expensive.
Brand building needs to be the priority, content needs to be the priority. Use performance to go 10 to 20. Don't use performance to go from zero to 10.
So I would say focus on brand, focus on content, focus on getting your word out there. Focus on word of mouth, focus on referrals. All of these things performance can't help you with you.
4. When money comes short or something changes in the environment around you or a new competitor or something happens. Performance is not gonna sustain you over a long time.
Aashish: That sounds great. You pointed out a lot about the importance of brand stories. How does one go about even pitching that story in their whole landscape of where they talk to their customers? Can you maybe highlight some examples that you have personally worked on and what are, maybe some of the frameworks that you use to pitch that story?
Vanshika Mehta: Yeah, for sure. So. The reason why we buy is emotional. We don't buy rationally and to appeal to emotions, you need a story.
Think of a brand, like say kosmik, right. Kosmik Brands landed on Earth in 2019 with a gummy that defied gravity and transcended its competitors.
They stood out due to understanding a need in the market and understanding consumer's problem psychology well to create a compelling story.
Your brand story is not something that is just like a one-pager that is on your, about us page. It's every little part that you put out as a brand that adds to your story. I think the basic thing that you need is to write about why are you doing what you're doing, why you feel that this product is better or is needed and how are you making a difference in someone's life. All of these things matter, because like as I said, trust is why people will buy your DTC Brand.
So for example couple of months ago, I did a brand story for a company called Benny's bowl. Very simple concept, very beautiful, but the more like we read about it and I wrote it.
It was just such a wholesome story. So basically if I had to tell you in short Benny's bowl does fresh dog food, but human-like dog food. So like a dog can taste textures and feel the texture like we eat carrots and rice.
So it's almost like you eating your lunch, but it's given to your dog rather than kibble. And rather than the meshy stuff, meshy stuff. And the reason for that is that while. You know, consume while people were trying to build products that had a long shelf life and could be like stored and dry and wet.
What happened is the vitamins and ingredients disappeared just because of the process. It was a defacto of the process. So, unfortunately, because of that, like you're not feeding your dog good stuff. If you think that you're feeding them out of a packet. So I wrote their brand story a couple of months ago and just brought in the feeling of like, Hey if you are eating well, your dog should also eat well.
If you are eating three spoons of rice, your dog might need six. Are you feeding your dog correctly? So it was a very beautiful story. And then they landed up raising about $300,000. Pretty soon after I wrote their story and it reached out to me. So it was a very exciting you know, experience because I personally love dogs myself, but like, I didn't realize that there was so much of default in what we were feeding our dogs.
And that was sad because like, We just now think it's convenient because of convenience. We're not taking care of them. Like we should back in the day when we didn't have these brands with like pellets and mushy food, we were feeding our dogs home food, and then it disappeared because of convenience.
So now this brand is here to make a difference again, DTC brand, and I hope that they do well because I mean, if you love your dog, then you'll take care of them. And that is the feeling that we brought out with the story.
Coming to the frameworks bit..........
I think the most common one is the hero's journey. Everybody should read about it. It's a process where rather than your brand being the focus of the story, it's more about how your brand enables success for your consumers. It's like, if you use my product, X, Y, and Z will happen. So it's called the hero's journey. It's a very well-known framework. Everybody should read it and see how they can adapt their brand story too.
Aashish: According to you what should be done on a DTC website to win customers?
Vanshika Mehta: That's a really good question.
1. So I think if you're on a DTC to buy a product as a consumer, a lot of it is how much are you gonna buy into what they say, which is, again, goes back to the story part of it, which is more about not just selling X product, but why are you doing what you're doing? Yes, you have to sell the product, but you can still marry product and story together in a way it doesn't seem like you're just like, you know, an Amazon-looking page.
If your DTC website looks like an Amazon page, that's not going to work for you. You could have just listed on Amazon and said, screw my website. But if you're spending time, energy, and money to build your website, I think you need to bring your consumers into your brand step by step through every fold.
2. Personalization is so possible these days. I mean, there is. So many amazing tools you know, and if you are a loyal customer of the brand and you have bought and you have an account, then it even goes one step further because then they know what you're looking for. They're like Aashish bought 10 packets of this thing last month. He's probably back around the same time. He's probably looking for this. So personalization is super, super important.
3. Another thing is. On your website. I think how neatly your architecture is laid out. How easy is it for someone to navigate through your website? If you're doing clothes, are you going to section by men, and women and then do segments? Or are you going to section by the kind of product or are you gonna section by the kind of material, right? Depending on what your brand ethos is. How easy is it for someone to get from A to B to buy your product?
Like probably in like five clicks or less is ideal. Another thing that I've realized on DTC websites, especially in the garment segment or the fashion segment is that they land up having like 20 pages of things to scroll through and they don't have a button that says view all. Can you imagine how frustrating it is?
Why don't you just have a button over there that says view all?
So it involves understanding what your consumer is looking for.
4. Lot of consumers will just bounce off another thing, something as simple as a page, or load time. If your page is image heavy and it's not formatted properly and it takes more than like five seconds. Either one, you're gonna question your internet or two. You're just gonna be like, screw it. I'll come back later.
We live in a world of distractions. We live in a world of short attention spans within those five seconds. Maybe the kid is calling them or the kitchen may see. Oh yeah, because the ice is ready or there's someone at the door and you've lost a consumer potentially just in those five seconds. So something simple as like very simple touch points that data, see brands need to keep in mind because it's all.
Talk to optimization people, talk to people that are good with say, you know websites that are like less exercise, you know, talk to them, understand how are they doing this so that the consumer can make a choice, reduce the cognitive load and help them decide to buy your product. That's all you need to do.
Aashish: Awesome. Now heading to my second question, what should you not do on a DTC website?
1. I think you should not put words in your consumer's mouth. While you have a brand ethos that says, okay, the brand is meant for this. It's okay if your brand is bought by somebody that's not your target audience.
So don't put words in your consumer's mouth unless your product is super specific, right? Like, unless you're selling products, just for people with diabetes, if it's like something that helps you with your multivitamins you know, don't put it in, don't put ideas in their head that
You know, automatically make them take a step back because that could be detrimental. See, at the end of the day, your brand can only talk to a certain persona or a certain person, but that doesn't mean you alienate everybody.
Like, for example, Apple doesn't talk to you. Apple talks to the creator, the rule breakers, the people that wanna change the world who just buy products of apple. We're buying Apple products because we've heard some good things about it and people are raving about it and it gives you confidence and everything else superficial that apple doesn't even care about.
We are not Apple's audience. Apple talks to those creative people, the videographers, the photographers, you know, like the people who are out to chain the world, we are just byproducts. So take that as an example, when you go to the apple website, irrespective of who you are, you will still be amazed. You'll be like, I want this product, whether you're their target audience or not apple knows who they have to talk to, but everybody else who comes on their website is not alienated. So that's an example of how to do it.
What not to do also is I think one thing that pisses me off. Like really long checkout flows.
You need my address, my email, my phone number and payment information. Don't ask me stupid information. I had a website once that asked me my date of birth and I was like, Okay, I get that. You might wanna send me a discount, but we could do that later.
Send me an email like, Hey, we're updating our database and I've got this email in the past from some other brand that, Hey, we're updating our database And we saw that you don't have a date of birth. Put this in and we'll send you a 10% when it's your birthday. That can be done later.
Don't make it longer for your consumer to check out because the longer it is, the more pissed off they're getting also make it super simple to actually what not to do is to not allow them to integrate with their social media channels to pull in information.
There are some brands where you can just. Like when you buy on their website, it says, okay, pull in information from Facebook or Instagram or your Google and it just grabs whatever it needs. And then you're done, you know? So like don't, don't make it hard for someone to check out because at that point you've got them through the funnel.
Aashish: How should one go about nailing their packaging so that it connects to their brand?
Vanshika Mehta: Yeah, I think in a DTC setting, if you make that interaction, something that is memorable and resonates with your audience I'm sure people will talk about it because they'll be like, oh look what I got.
So for example, I ordered pants on this website called the pant project and when I opened up their packaging, there was a notebook and a measuring tape. There was a guide on how do you find the right fit of pants for yourself? So many little things that were so memorable, like they were not out of the crazy, like out of the blue kind of stuff, but it was so memorable.
Another one that I love is again, Bliss club, when you open their packaging. There's a note from the founder from me directly which talks about their entire ethos of white women who move beautiful packaging dot and key. I am obsessed with their packaging. It's so beautiful in neutral colours, and they've got such nice notes in their product packaging or as a leaflet.
I think it's a great opportunity. For your customer to learn more about you, tell them what is not on your website.
So there are so many amazing opening experiences, it's not just the product that you're getting, you're getting an entire vibe. It's like the brand communicating with you without them being there. And like I said, like if the, if the packaging is well thought out if the packaging is relevant to the audience if the packaging is informative and fun to read.
All of these things will add to the experience, it's like that physical moment when you like, actually have the product in your hand, when you feel like, oh, wow, like, look what I just bought.
And if you're giving your audience a chance to talk about it, Chances are that they will talk about it. You just need to give them the opportunity or the choice to talk about it and gain attention. Do things like putting in a note from the founder, your brand ethos, how are you contributing to whatever mission you've chosen, whatever it is, and talk about it.
If it looks good, they'll take a photo. They'll share it on their social. They'll share it on WhatsApp because we as humans, unfortunately, thrive and love and like attention. We love it when our friends go and like our comments, we love it.
And like when they start getting like 30, 40, 50 likes, that's all they want. That is their ego boost of the day. So use it to your, use it to your benefit because why not? It's free. It's free publicity.
Aashish: Awesome. I think that's a ton of insights and great information for DTC brands to take away. Thank you so much Vanshika Mehta for making this happen.
Vanshika Mehta: Thank you so much for having me. It was super fun to do this.