Indian celebrations are known for being big, bold and vibrant– whether it is weddings, baby showers, or house-warming ceremonies. Of late, exotic venues, unique décors, customised invites, designer outfits, a multi-cuisine spread, and distinctive return gifts have become de rigueur when it comes to special occasions.
This also means a step up from the box of assorted sweets from that popular mithai shop, or the tambulam hamper containing a coconut, sweets, and betel leaves traditionally used as return favours during weddings and celebrations. So now we have customised gift boxes, eco-friendly bags with Kalamkari prints, silk jewellery boxes, handcrafted Jaipur marble miniatures, meenakari plates, traditional brass lamps, and so on -- the range of exquisite gifting options are curated to sync with the theme of the celebration and reflect the ethos of the hosts.
Chennai-based Wedtree, a startup catering to this new trend in the traditional gifting market. Started in 2014 by a former engineer-couple, Anand Krishnamoorthy and Brindha Padmanaabhan, Wedtree began as an online platform. A year later, they cemented their offline presence, first with a store in Chennai and more recently in Hyderabad. At Wedtree, Brinda handles product curation and vendor development, in addition to tech and operations, while Anand leads the sales, marketing as well tech.
The duo says, “As first-time entrepreneurs, we launched Wedtree because we saw a good business opportunity in the evolving traditional gifting landscape. As it was the norm, we went live as an online platform. But a few months into the business, we realised that for our customers, these gifts held high emotional value. They wanted their guests to remember the gifts and the thought that was put into it. So, they needed to see and feel the product before they went ahead with the purchase decision. This meant, we needed to supplement our online offering with an offline store if we had to cater to our customers.” Wedtree opened its first brick and mortar store in 2015 and since then they have been following an omni-channel business model.” That said, today their Shopify store continues to be their biggest growth driver contributing more than 60 percent of the revenue.
So what makes Wedtree a preferred destination for traditional occasion-based gifting? According to Anand, the four parameters are – affordability, quality, a unique range of products that can be customised, and a customer focused sales-approach. “The price range of our product portfolio starts at Rs 20 and goes up to Rs 1,000. But the affordability angle is evident when you do a price comparison – if it is Rs 60 on our platform, a similar product will cost you Rs 300 on some of the biggest e-commerce platforms. Because we deal in bulk orders, we are able to sell at a good price point.”
Wedtree works directly with artisans and handicrafts makers, which ensures that they have control over the quality of products as well as the ability to undertake large-scale customisation requests.
Capitalising on in-bound customer interest
An interesting aspect about Wedtree is that they cater to 100 percent inbound sales. “Our customer service team is often seen helping customers address shipping concerns or helping them choose the best gifting options for the proposed budget. They do not try to upsell or increase the bucket size, but address genuine concerns or challenges.”
And this is why it becomes imperative for the team to have instant access to all the required information – be it the number of available products in the warehouse, or what is the most trending gifting option of the season.
That’s where the decision to come on board the Shopify Gold platform has proved advantageous for Wedtree. “Features like the analytics and real time view dashboard, the sales reports etc are easily accessible by the team. Providing the right information to our customers increases the chance of conversions,” explains Anand.
Shopify's analytics and reports enable businesses to review the store's recent activity, get insights on visitors, traffic, conversions and the best-selling products, and analyse the store's transactions. The dashboard and the reports cover the common reporting and analysis needs of most store owners.
On an average, Wedtree sees a traffic of over 13,500 visitors in a day and the conversion numbers stand at 0.6 percent, which is appreciable considering that each of their cart value ranges from a few thousands to a few lakhs.
An added advantage is that Shopify’s platform is mobile-compatible, which means that Wedtree’s 42-member team literally has all the information at their fingertips anytime. The transparency of information makes communication channels robust. “Shopify helped us to seamlessly streamline our internal communication process which in turn has helped us increase sales and cut down costs. Today, our employees can keep a track of any purchase order without dependency. They are able to communicate the right information to internal team members, partners, and customers. They are able to flag delays or challenges immediately, thereby enabling a proactive customer-centric approach to delivering the products. This leads to happy customers, which in turn increases the chances of organically onboarding referral customers,” says Anand.
Why working in silos is a thing of the past
With Shopify Gold’s SEO friendly structure and access to third party apps, Wedtree has been able to get to the top of search pages, helping drive more inbound traffic.
The platform also supports use of a third-party app, or set up third-party analytics offerings, to meet unique needs of businesses. Explaining with an example how integrating third party apps on to Wedtree’s backend has helped, he shares, “By integrating our shipping and delivery partner’s app, all we need to do is keep our consignment packed and ready. As soon as that is done, the information is relayed directly to the partner and it is picked on time. There is no need for follow-ups or reminders. Also, by integrating with e-commerce platforms such as Facebook Store and Google Shopping through the Shopify App Store, we are able to able to further drive revenue with ease. If we had to oversee marketing in silos on these platforms, it would have become challenging for a bootstrapped startup like ours.”
The Shopify experience is a sharp contrast to the time when WedTree was on the Magento platform. Anand says, “Even though Magento had a lot of third party app developers, the maintenance cost was quite high. Also, increasing server cost and the scale capability were additional challenges.”
Catering to seasonal spike in demand and the US market
From August to February, India’s predominant festive season, Wedtree sees a spike in online visits and conversions. During this period, it becomes crucial to be able to support the increased online activity and avoid site crashes at all costs.
Being a fully hosted SaaS solution, Shopify Gold provides 200 TB storage support, 99.99 percent server uptime, ability to handle 8,000+ orders a minute, and unlimited bandwidth. This enables businesses like Wedtree to undertake flash sales or handle heavy volumes with ease, without having to worry about the possibility of downtimes or delay in buffering the site.
Anand says, “With Shopify Gold we are not constrained by the increase in website visits or the expansion of product portfolio during seasonal surges. We can upload as many files as we like and still maintain a top-notch user-interface.”
In addition to capitalising on seasonal demand, another key growth driver has been the NRI market in the US. Wedtree began catering to this segment in 2015, but observed that in 65 per cent of the cases, after a customer added items into their cart and filled in their address details of the address, they dropped out before the next step, which is payment. After talking to customers, they realised that this was because the information about shipping costs was provided only at the end. And since these were overseas shipments, it was expensive.
Another problem was related to payment gateways. Since customers could pay through PayPal or their Indian bank accounts and debit cards, NRIs with Indian bank accounts preferred to pay in Indian Rupees. But because their IP address would be based in US, the payments wouldn’t go through. This affected conversions.
Shopify’s Gold subscription helped to address these two critical issues through the Shopify clones feature. Shopify Gold Merchants are given the option to host multiple expansion stores. The expansion stores allow businesses to customise their websites for different geographies and set different prices, currencies, and inventories as per the availability in that region. In addition to this, Shopify enables the businesses to customise the front-end, not just website themes but also to integrate special tabs.
“These exclusive Shopify Gold features helped us to create two clone websites – one for India and one for the US. In the US website, we were able to customise the payment gateway option and also include a tab that showed the shipping price along with the details of the product, even before the customer adds them to the cart. This exponentially impacted our conversion and traction. After introducing the clone store, we were able to increase sales by 200 percent,” explains Anand.
Just five months into the clone store, nearly 20 percent of Wedtree’s revenue is coming from the US market. Anand believes that this number will only increase in the coming months.
Big moves on the card for Wedtree
Wedtree migrated to the Shopify Platform in September 2017. The good user experience and the ease of managing the online business prompted the team to try the Shopify Gold subscription a few months into the migration. And ever since, Anand says, they have been able to expand the business at a pace which was considered a distant possibility earlier.
Wedtree is likely to touch Rs 12 crore in revenue for FY 17-18, which is double the revenue from the previous financial year. “And no doubt that Shopify is one of the factors that has helped us bring up our revenue. It’s almost like we have unlocked a new way of doing business.”
Wedtree has been bootstrapped so far, but has achieved positive net income since its launch in 2014. Anand says while they are interested in getting funding to scale up their operations, their larger focus will still be to organically boost their growth. “Running the business for three years, we have a keen understanding of our customers, the market, and the growth prospects. Our product and operations pipeline is stable and our online store continues to garner organic sales. The bigger challenge is to scale up our offline stores which will not only supplement our growth but also help to further increase the traction to our online store.” Wedtree plans to open 20 more stores in major cities in India by 2020 and maintaining their omni-channel strategy.
Anand and Brinda say that in the last few years, they’ve observed that when it came to occasion-based gifting, people are switching to a more meaningful and utility-based approach. “We expect this trend to grow stronger in the next few years which means our bigger focus will still be on catering to these consumers. But we are keen to build an additional revenue channel by reaching out to corporate and big institutions for whom gifting is a key part of employee engagement programmes. The gifting sector is a burgeoning sector with opportunities to tap. And, we are optimistic.”