How B-to-B Wholesaler T3 Micro Shifted to D-to-C Seller During the Pandemic
T3 Micro sells 40 different hair and beauty products, from blow dryers to curlers to flat irons and brushes. The brand traditionally relied on manufacturers in China for its products, but it began experiencing supply chain interruptions earlier this year with the spread of COVID-19. As the pandemic forced business shutdowns in the U.S., T3 Micro's retail partners stopped placing orders.
As a result of the pandemic and changing market conditions, T3 Micro began investing in refreshing its own e-commerce site. The brand had to prepare for its wholesale B-to-B business sales to be off significantly for an unknown period, which meant focusing on direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) sales. T3 Micro added resources to its D-to-C team and is currently working on a platform to improve customer engagement and branding. It has seen D-to-C growth during the last several months, and plans to continue investing in the channel post-pandemic.
In an interview with Total Retail, Amanda Afeiche, vice president, finance and administration at T3 Micro, discusses how the beauty brand has pivoted its business model during the pandemic, and the role that technology played in making that possible.
Total Retail: What challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic present for T3 Micro's business?
Amanda Afeiche: Since we work with manufacturers based in China, we saw the initial impact of the pandemic at the beginning of the year before national stay-at-home orders went into effect. We partner with a lot of retail stores, and with their doors closed, we experienced a halt in business. It was critical for us to assess our business quickly, pause all unnecessary spending, and have our employees shift to work from home.
TR: How have investments in T3 Micro's e-commerce site helped to offset some of those challenges?
AA: While we're very much an omnichannel brand, e-commerce has been a significant focus for us. With physical doors shut and demand challenges with our retail partners, the need for a greater online experience has never been more important. We're currently working to update our e-commerce platform to improve functionality for shoppers and increase consumer engagement.
TR: How was T3 Micro able to pivot quickly, moving from primarily a B-to-B wholesaler to D-to-C seller?
AA: We've remained nimble and flexible in our approach with everything we do, closely monitoring the key performance indicators of our campaigns and adjusting our programming as needed in light of the uncertain environment. That includes updates to our website, customer journey and messaging. Luckily, we had already started making investments in our website, so that allowed us to shift more resources to e-commerce quickly.
We're also focused on continuing to invest in our customer experience, especially as we ramp up our direct-to-consumer efforts. We’ve looked at how we provide value to our customers outside of sales. For example, we now provide advice for their day-to-day beauty regimens.
TR: What technology investments has T3 Micro made that have helped it make that transition effectively?
AA: We're currently working on updating our e-commerce platform to enable better customer experiences. We've also invested in upgrading other systems so we can easily support our sales channels and take advantage of business intelligence and data analytics to gain better insights into our business.
For example, we've been using Oracle NetSuite for nearly a decade, but as we started to unlock more of the functionality within the platform, we realized we were underutilizing capabilities that were a natural fit for our business. We’ve since expanded our capabilities with the platform to significantly streamline our operations, including reporting, automating approval systems, and working with other partners to address unique challenges for our brand. It’s incredibly important for us to work with technology partners that will help us deliver more value to our customers and build a more successful business.
TR: What business benefits has T3 Micro realized from its investment in its D-to-C business?
AA: Since February, we’ve seen a 32 percent increase in our daily website traffic. Through our D-to-C channel we’ve been able to build stronger relationships and increase loyalty with repeat customers. It’s crucial to meet customers where they are, and right now they’re online. Shoppers are very engaged with brands right now. It’s been exciting to offer new experiences to our customers and build relationships that enable us to have a deeper understanding of the community we’re serving.
TR: What lessons or advice can you share with other brands that are thinking of ramping up their D-to-C operations?
AA: First and foremost, it’s important to have a plan and then shift your focus based on the results of the data. Don’t be nervous to change things up. The data will help you get more of an understanding of your business. I’d also urge brands not to be afraid to make investments during this time. In many instances, the pandemic has helped accelerate the change that many brands like my own were already planning to make. If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be waiting for crises to act and invest in a road map that will be critical for future success.
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