Mangesh Panditrao, Co-Founder & CEO, Shoptimize

Mangesh Panditrao is the co-founder and CEO of Shoptimize, D2C eCommerce Growth Platform. He has a total of 21 years of experience in India and the United States with extensive knowledge of technology and its role in business. Mangesh was educated at Purdue University in the United States and spent seven years in the US in several consulting roles. At Shoptimize, his primary focus is on building a top-notch team and making sure that the team members have the right incentives and work environment in which to perform optimally. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Mangesh talks about the emergence of digital marketing and advertising, how has Covid-19 resulted in more website sales/bookings, the role of Shoptimize in driving sales and growth, and much more.

 

Do you think digital marketing and advertising have almost replaced the traditional form of advertising as marketers focused more on digital campaigns to generate greater brand awareness? What is the situation in India?

India is going digital, and the pandemic has accelerated this shift. The Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown have brought about a significant shift in consumer buying behaviour. Online sales account for almost all purchases, from groceries and essentials to clothing and accessories. This has led to a massive spurt in D2C brands and digital marketing spends. Brands have thus been compelled to develop an online presence and strategies even if they had none before, and are using a variety of channels to do so now. We are seeing a drastic reduction in ad spends on traditional mediums like print and TV, among the brands we work with. US and China have large eCommerce players contributing towards digital ad spends and this trend is replaying in India too where eCommerce is now amongst the top digital advertising touch-points for brands.

With increased internet penetration and data packs getting cheaper, usage of social media is growing at  35% Y-o-Y as it becomes one of the main channels to reach a vast audience. According to the Shoptimize Growth Platform, social media usage went up 50 times during the pandemic.

According to Criteo’s report, 8 out of 10 marketers claim that the increase in digital marketing spend due to COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation when it comes to business processes. How has covid increased this budget allocation?

One major trend in the post-Covid shopping landscape is the growth of D2C (direct-to-consumer) brands. As consumer expectations about product availability and the shopping experience go up, brands started focusing on selling directly to their customers through a dedicated channel or app. More and more brands are adopting D2C eCommerce as a serious revenue stream. Brands are aware of this shift and to stay connected with their audiences need to be active on every possible digital platform. As brands began to see the fall in offline and the uptick in online sales, they have started diverting 60-80% of their marketing budgets to online.

Despite a revenue decrease due to the pandemic in 2020, 54% of marketers believe Covid-19 has resulted in more website sales/bookings, thus driving online sales and impacting businesses in moving forward. Tell us about the Importance of Digital Marketing Spend allocation for brands.

India is a large and diverse market with multiple demographics, languages, income levels and cultures. In order to cater to each of these customer segments, brands will have to relook at their planning and digital media strategies with the help of appropriately sourced data and content. Going forward, for many businesses, the continuity of operations will critically depend on their digital capabilities.

As mentioned earlier, digital content consumption has drastically increased, and brands are compelled to be visible on every popular digital channel. We see a lot of traffic and revenue coming from social media, WhatsApp and Google as a channel. Brands have started amping up their real-time personalisation strategies depending on which channel the customer was using and at what time. Data analytics and behavioural insights are useful in building a personal and omni channel experience with the consumer.

With all the companies including the latest technological developments into their digital media campaigns, what will help organizations differentiate themselves from the competitors in the long run?

The biggest differentiator would be brands delivering richer digital experiences using Artificial Intelligence. These experiences can be tailored to match the interests of individual buyers, something customers have long been demanding leading to greater customer loyalty.

As direct to consumer brands will increase focus on customer experience and product diversification, it will become crucial to figure the product mix and social media marketing stories with greater depth. Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, customers have started valuing brands that prioritised a humanistic approach of marketing over direct selling. Stories about how brands were taking adequate safety measures as precautions while continuing to deliver the service that customers expect helped to maintain customer bonds despite the physical distance. This storytelling trend is likely to continue as customers become savvy about choosing brands that make a difference beyond just selling products.

Ultimately, the one thing that will set a brand apart from the rest will be the priceless customer connection that the brand is able to establish. Whether through digital media, offline experiences or simply better-quality products, both large and small brands will need to deliver delightful customer experiences and stay in tune with the ever evolving eCommerce sector.

What is the role of Shoptimize in driving sales and growth through their AI-driven growth platform?

D2C eCommerce is becoming an increasingly important growth channel for brands across the globe. The channel reduces the dependency on online marketplaces and allows brand’s to gain valuable insights about customers and their preferences. Once a brand has set up it’s website to drive online sales, the next challenge is to grow revenue and eventually to make this channel profitable. This journey is a steep uphill battle for many.

We bring in customer intelligence data from multiple sources within the eCommerce ecosystem to provide a 360 degree view of business. Based on the data, the platform generates actionable insights and recommendations to uncover opportunities for revenue growth.

Once the first set of transactions have come in, brands look to scale their spends on digital marketing channels. There is often a direct correlation between the growth in sales and the digital marketing spends. To keep acquisition costs low and minimize impact on margins, brands need to be able to process a lot of data. This data pours in from all sources and soon becomes overwhelming for internal teams as well as external marketing agencies to process. It is often a task just to view all of this data in one place to aid decision making. This is where the Shoptimize Growth Platform becomes a game changer.

How are you different from the existing competitors? What are your strategies?

D2C growth is all about finding several growth opportunities and executing them at scale. Most of these growth cycles are short lived and if an opportunity is missed, it is hard to get it back. The Shoptimize Growth Platform drives growth strategies for D2C brand marketers and business owners, through one powerful engine. We leverage AI to identify growth opportunities and help brands take data-driven decisions.

Shoptimize’s Platform offers flexibility in design and is built to handle scale. Our mission is simple: to allow brands to take control of their D2C eCommerce channel, optimize costs at the same time increase revenues. Our unique business model aligns with brands goals & success. We grow as they grow.

How has been the response received so far? Tell us about the growth statistics of the brands working with Shoptimize.

Our business has been relatively safe from the severe impact of COVID. While there was a slight dip when the pandemic first hit,we were able to quickly bounce back as demand for D2C eCommerce solutions shot up. We added many new customers and our revenues doubled from pre to post COVID. Our existing customers saw a 200% growth in GMV post COVID, as consumers shifted to buying online.

How do you see the brand in the next five years? Tell us about your plans.

We recently entered the SEA market and are looking to expand our presence there. We are investing heavily in technology and building capabilities in our core eCommerce platform as well as the AI-powered growth engine. We are looking at a 5x growth in the near term. This will be possible because we now have a comprehensive suite of products, both for the base D2C eCommerce platform as well as growth of the eCommerce business. With our investments in technology, product development and delivery, we are very well poised to scale and grow.

More about Mangesh Panditrao

Mangesh Panditrao began his professional career as a software engineer at Infosys. He subsequently took up roles at Stanley Technologies, JDA Software Group and Exact Software, assuming roles related to supply chain management and the implementation of software solutions. In 2007 he founded his first company, Niyuj, targeting mid-market companies to implement enterprise software solutions. He handled new market expansion, pre-sales, sales, project management and IT strategy. The experience taught him what building and running a new business entailed and he carried those lessons into his next venture, which was starting Shoptimize in 2012 to cater to the increasing number of Indians doing their shopping online.

At Shoptimize, he is actively involved in product development, using his vast experience in the customer relationship space to act as a Subject Domain Expert to the product team. The growth and expansion strategy for Shoptimize in South-East Asia is also under his purview. In addition to these responsibilities, he handles finance and fund raising for the company.

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