EXCLUSIVE: Personalization builds a strong customer franchise: Bharath Sastry of Vistaprint India


Vistaprint India, an e-commerce platform for customized printing services for individuals and small business owners, has been empowering businesses to create an identity of their own ever since it started in India about 6 years ago with a strong customer advantage proposition of offering low-cost unit customization. 

Mediabrief.com caught up with Bharath Sastry, CEO of Vistaprint India, to know more about how personalization helps in effective communication, how Vistaprint has been helping the frontline COVID-19 warriors, its recent contests like #MakeYourMask and much more. 

Vistaprint operations in India started 6 years ago. How has the brand performed since its inception?

The Vistaprint brand has grown significantly and profitably, as well as built a strong customer franchise over the last 3-4 years. This has been on the back of a strong brand proposition, consistent brand communication, significant expansion of our products and offerings, having an easy-to-design user interface and consistent focus on quality improvement. The brand has evolved to a clear market leader in the online personalization space.

Vistaprint has a very enticing and useful online platform filled with cross-sell suggestions and a very customer-friendly UI, coaxing them to visualise and see WIP designs easily created, and pushing them into impulse buying. What is the size of the Vistaprint kind of service? 

Our customer base is diverse – from small businesses, medium and large businesses to individuals, Basically, anyone who is looking to customize or personalize their products.Our customer base has grown manifold over the last 3-4 years.

We provide our customers a wide selection of high-quality products with single/ low unit customization at affordable prices from the convenience of their home or office. We are a clear market leader in this space and consider the whole offline market as the universe.

Over the past six months of the lockdown, Vistaprint would have really grown, because a lot of people have set up little BFH (business from home) ventures to get or supplement an income, and they would need information collateral that could go with the products they supply to their customers.  How has the lockdown affected your business? Which parts of your offerings have grown, and which must necessarily wait for the lockdown and businesses to open?

We have seen a good revival in demand across all our products post the intense phase of the lockdown. Specifically, we have seen rising demand for in-home products like Mugs, Photo albums, Mousepads, Stamps etc.

We also launched Personalized Face Masks, Shields, Hand Gloves and Covid related templates on several products which have seen good traction. Going ahead, we are hopeful on Gifting to pick up even further with the arrival of the festive season.

Who are the other players in the market who also reach out to customers through a good online platform like yours? 

The other online players in the market are Printvenue, Printstop, Printo etc but our internal and external analytics mentions that are very small in relative size.

Today, every tiny little stationery and xerox shop offers multiple services like Vistaprint (and sometimes even more), at a lower price, and at really comparable quality too. Has that affected your growth?

No, in fact our potential customers visit these shops. We make it easy without the need for physical effort, as we are online and customers can order from the convenience of their homes or offices. Apart from that we have a wide selection of products and designs available under one roof, and the assurance of a quality product from the brand.

How is your business shaping up in times of Covid-19? What has been the impact of COVID on your business?

We have seen a significant impact during the most intense phase of the lockdown. The key challenge was the slump in demand. However, once the unlock has started we have started to see rising levels of demand.

I firmly believe that companies with solid foundations, namely brands that connect with customers, a focused business strategy, healthy variable margins, and people who are adaptable will come out from the situation stronger. And we are well on that journey.

How have you been marketing Vistaprint services now? What has changed from the pre-lockdown days?

We have consistently been building our brand thru effective brand communication while also making sure our marketing spend is efficient. This discipline has helped us even during the lockdown, where we continued with brand communication. Even now, we continue to invest on brand building on our digital platforms, namely YouTube, Facebook and other popular channels.

Among our target audience, our brand awareness has quadrupled over the last 3-4 years. Currently we are airing a clutter breaking video of a tailor impressing his prospective father-in-law by showing his professionalism.

What is Vistaprint India’s marketing strategy for the next quarter?

We will continue to focus on what’s working for us, namely communication focused on brand building, leveraging ‘owned media’ like SEO, focusing on quality content on our site, effectively using paid channels, while using our strong internal analytical tools to ensure our spend is efficient.

Any global or Indian trends on how customized marketing products help in pushing brand recall with customers?

Personalization, as the name suggests, helps customers connect with the product they buy at a personal level. It evokes emotions such as pride, thoughtfulness, a sense of identity and joy. Hence personalization when done well, is a great way to build a strong customer franchise.

Apart from this, increased adoption of personalized gifts by customers has also been instrumental in the growth of the online gifting industry. More and more customers are looking to customize gifts for their loved ones, and they are leaving no stones unturned to find the perfect gift.

What are some of the Vistaprint offerings that are most popular with customers?

We have a large range of categories that perform well, our top categories are Visiting Cards, Apparel like T shirts and Shirts, Stationery, Signs, Pens, Mugs, Photo albums, and now Masks etc.

We cater to all geographies in the country, and while we started gaining traction in the larger cities initially, the growths of our tier 2 and smaller towns have picked up in the last couple of years.

How does Vistaprint’s global background give it an edge to operate in the times of Covid?

Availability of cutting-edge analytical tools, knowledge of world class manufacturing, other best practices are some of the advantageous of being in a global company.  These benefits have not only helped us to scale up in the last 3-4 years but also played a significant role in tackling uncertainties during Covid.

What CSR initiatives or society-support initiatives has VistaPrint undertaken during COVID?

We contributed in a small way to our frontline warriors, the local police. We made sure our masks and shields were given to them when we launched these products.

Tell us briefly about Vistaprint’s recent #MakeYourMask contest, and the response it garnered.

 Vistaprint, conducted a unique #MakeYourMask contest through its social media channels. The contest encouraged participants to unleash their creativity and share the designs that they would want to feature on their masks. Majority of the participants were young millennials from Tier 1 & 2 cities who submitted quirky and cool designs.

One such participant created a unique design inspired by Michelangelo’s “The creation of Adam”, where she designed the two hands on each end of the mask, with the messaging “Don’t touch your face Adam!”. One winner was selected from each of the social platforms, and they were given masks with their designs printed on them.

What are Vistaprint India’s expansion plans, and your strategies for growth?

While our business has grown significantly over the last 3-4 years, the opportunity in the area of personalization is still immense. Hence, we will continue to a) Maintain our Strategic focus in the space of online personalization b) Keep strengthening our brand thru effective brand communication c) Continue to significantly expand our product and design offerings

Is there anything else that you would want to add?

To me, the last 6 months have just reemphasized the 3 vital aspects relevant to business leaders –

1) Focus – continue to maintain or further enhance focus on the strategic areas where your business can win

2) Adaptability – in an ever-changing world, a never-changing trait of effective leaders is adaptability. To me, it’s a combination of the will to act and an open-minded attitude.

3) Positivity – maintaining a positive environment even in the toughest of times builds encouragement and endurance amongst team members, so keep smiling.

Your thoughts, please