SockSoho is a direct-to-consumer model that aspires to turn out to be the “Uniqlo of India.” The firm launched gross sales 10 months in the past, beginning with males’s socks, and recently completed Y Combinator’s Summer 2020 program. Founded by Pritika Mehta, an information scientist who has labored at corporations together with TripAdvisor, and progress marketer Simarpreet Singh, SockSoho now has greater than 30,000 prospects, and plans to launch into new menswear verticals quickly.
Before launching SockSoho, Mehta and Singh labored collectively on MindBatteries, a expertise and content material IP supplier whose company shoppers included The Times of India, The Economic Times, Mercedes, Infosys, the World Economic Forum and Uber.
The two are counting on a number of elements for SockSoho’s progress: India’s place as one of many largest and fastest-growing e-commerce international locations on this planet and the corporate’s in-house expertise, which can embody proprietary chatbots and AI-based advice engines because it scales.
SockSoho launched with a multi-platform distribution technique, promoting on its on website in addition to e-commerce platforms. But its fundamental driver is WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in India with over 400 million users. About 70% of SockSoho’s gross sales occur by WhatsApp, and it additionally makes use of the messenger for advertising and A/B product testing.
Eric Migicovsky, the Y Combinator accomplice who invested in SockSoho, informed TechCrunch in an electronic mail that SockSoho “looks like a fashion brand on the surface but at the backend they operate like a tech company. They’re A/B testing every aspect of the product and ecommerce path, not something every fashion brand does.”
“I think they’re winning strategy here is WhatsApp,” he added. “They have figured out how to acquire and service customers exclusively through the platform.”
Before beginning SockSoho, Mehta earned a Master’s in laptop science from the University of Buffalo, specializing in synthetic intelligence. Then she spent a number of years within the United States, working at tech corporations, together with TripAdvisor. But she continued keeping track of her residence nation.
“When I saw the growth happening in the Indian market, it looked phenomenal because the population is huge and data was becoming really cheap. There was a huge increase in people shopping online,” she informed TechCrunch. “That is when I thought, what the hell am I doing in the U.S. when all the action is happening in India?”
Most on-line trend manufacturers in India deal with girls, so Mehta and Singh determined to enter menswear. They say there are about 200 million males residing in cities in India, representing a possible $eight billion market. Before doing client analysis, the 2 wrote down an inventory of 80 objects they might launch with. Socks gained as a result of they’re straightforward to suit and ship, and have excessive margins and low charges of return.
Before launching new socks, SockSoho does its model of A/B testing by WhatsApp by sending design concepts to prospects and gauging their curiosity in pre-orders earlier than inserting manufacturing orders.
Data analytics is vital to decreasing the price of advertising and buyer acquisition, a problem for a lot of direct-to-consumer corporations.
“We are basically gathering data points to understand customer behavior and spending patterns, and those insights help us refine every single thing that we are building, from our designs to marketing and inventory planning, and even expanding into future verticals,” mentioned Mehta.
Analyzing information has already revealed a few surprises. For instance, SockSoho anticipated virtually all of its prospects to be males, however about 30% of whole purchases are made by girls shopping for items. SockSoho’s founders additionally assumed that almost all of its patrons would dwell in main cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, however its information revealed that smaller cities have been main progress drivers. “All these insights came purely from data,” mentioned Singh.
Over the final six months, 58% of SockSoho’s prospects have made repeat purchases, and gross sales grew throughout India’s COVID-19 lockdown, which began in March.
“COVID has accelerated the shift of people to online shopping,” mentioned Singh. “Like my dad, he never shopped online, but during COVID he’s even buying his toothpaste online. It’s a tectonic shift.”
But many conventional retail manufacturers haven’t nailed the web purchasing expertise but, Mehta added.
“With e-commerce, it’s not just about selling the product,” she mentioned.
To hold prospects engaged, SockSoho depends on WhatsApp to share new merchandise and buyer images. But that stage of non-public engagement will turn out to be more difficult because the model grows.
This is the place the proprietary expertise SockSoho is creating comes into play. This consists of AI-based chatbots that may deal with easy queries, like exchanges. For instance, a buyer who receives the incorrect merchandise will be capable of add a photograph and get a substitute shipped to them. More difficult points will likely be flagged for human buyer representatives.
“We are building this proprietary software inside the company, which can actually replicate the human experience. We are collecting all the data, all the interactions that are happening currently with customers to understand the language, the data and the kind of experience they like,” mentioned Mehta.
SockSoho can also be creating its personal AI-based advice engine that can present prospects merchandise they’re more likely to be excited by primarily based on their shopping and purchasing habits. The startup isn’t revealing but into which verticals it should develop subsequent, however it’s already doing A/B testing for its subsequent product strains.
“Once we have built our tech stack, our whole supply chain and nailed down the socks, it will be very easy for us to go into any other vertical and eventually become the Uniqlo of India,” mentioned Singh.