Antyra Solutions: Digital strategies that work in the new normal

(L-R) Rohan Jayaweera (Co-Founder and Director), Niranka Perera (Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO), Naveen Marasinghe (COO)

The mere ability to sell online will not get businesses very far in the post COVID-19 era

While most Sri Lankan brands adopted digital sales with impressive success during the COVID-19 lockdown, transaction volumes have declined since restrictions on peoples’ movements were lifted. Antyra Solutions knows all the pitfalls and understands what it takes to build a sustainable digital strategy and ecommerce business that will deliver results in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’.

Antyra handles one of the largest volumes in terms of revenue, as well as in terms of diversity of products in Sri Lanka’s ecommerce space. The company has helped clients generate over Rs5 billion online from Sri Lanka, selling over 50,000 product SKUs, over the last five years in the retail and ecommerce space alone.

Combining the revenue generated by Antyra’s hospitality marketing arm, the company has helped clients generate over LKR 10 Billion in pure online revenue. From its inception, Antyra has advocated a holistic approach to digital marketing, taking a consultative approach to ensure client success. The company created an ecommerce framework called the 7-Pillar framework to ensure every aspect of the ecommerce ecosystem is considered and all facets of the user experience from marketing messaging to shipping are working in tandem to drive success online.

To this end, Antyra heavily invested in building vertical depth and domain knowledge in the retail, hospitality, banking, finance, and insurance industries to service clients better. “The company was born with the idea to offer performance-based marketing, to be held accountable for online investments that translate to real-world results. To this end, our boutique agency was formed to create an omnichannel digital experience including branding and product design, technology solutions and digital marketing,” according to Rohan Jayaweera, Co-Founder and Director of Antyra Solutions. There was a sharp increase in digital marketing and ecommerce services, due to the lockdown implemented to contain the pandemic.

“In my opinion, technology was under-appreciated due to the inability to value time; people would be willing to spend 15 minutes extra just to save a few hundred rupees,” Jayaweera explained. “In the recent past though, technology access and convenience increasingly became big factors when people were pressed and started valuing time. As a result, in developing markets like Sri Lanka, ecommerce and digital services showed rapid growth. With COVID-19, the landscape changed entirely as there was no alternative. People were compelled to shop online for things like daily essentials, which they may never have considered buying online previously.” Jayaweera said.

(L-R) Gillian Nair, Assistant Manager, Content Marketing Avishka Weerasinghe, Assistant Manager, Digital Marketing Lahiru Wishvanath, Head, UI/UX Engineering Eshan Fernando, Assistant Manager, Projects Rohan Jayaweera, Co-Founder and Director Niranka Perera, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Naveen Marasinghe, COO Muditha Tennamudali, Head,Antyra Studios Inoka Jayasundera, Head,Admin & Operations Shihan Condagamage, Assistant Manager, Digital Marketing Usitha Dheerasinghe, Assistant Manager, Client Servicing Kulunu Jayasekara, Assistant Manager, UI/UX Design (absent) Lakshitha Vithanage, Assistant Manager, Digital Marketing (absent) Nilanga Jayawickreme, Head of Communications (absent) Sureshvasan Paramasamy, Head of Software Engineering (absent)

While the potential for ecommerce in Sri Lanka is high and is continuously growing, most brands are yet to consider it as an important sales channel, instead, treating it simply as something nice to have. Despite many brands having an online presence or launching services during the lockdown, the question to consider is whether the experience was positive enough to maintain the level of customer engagement seen during the lockdown.

“Businesses need to pursue online channels as soon as possible as there is a massive boom in the market right now. However, if you fail to consider the user experience, value creation process and a methodology to establish a rapport with the customer to foster repeat engagement, then the sustainability of the online channel is questionable,” said Niranka T. Perera, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Antyra Solutions.

“Online, a competitor is a click away. As such, every facet of the online customer journey should be considered”, he also added.

Perera is recognised as one of the country’s leading digital marketing professionals with over 17 years’ experience in ecommerce, digital and business development. Speaking from both a global perspective as well as brands they handle in Sri Lanka, Perera notes that some brands that had a 1,000%+ increase in ecommerce sales saw the transaction volumes drop back to pre-COVID levels after lockdowns were lifted, while others have seen only smaller drops and are maintaining their momentum.

“The fundamental difference we see between these two scenarios is the customer experience and the purchase use case. Based on a survey we recently conducted of 1,200 online shoppers in Sri Lanka, those who shopped online because they had no other choice and did not enjoy the experience were most likely to go back to brick and mortar shopping. In general, we also see a lack of customer lifecycle management aimed at maintaining a relationship post purchase, encouraging, and incentivizing customers to continue shopping online,” Perera explained.

Antyra Solutions follows a consultative approach to digital and ecommerce experiences, advising clients to not only think of immediate sales but structure it in a very holistic sense into three parts; the pre-purchase, the purchase and the post-purchase phases of a product or service that is bought online. Following which, Antyra helps businesses create an action plan that focuses on all three areas mapping short term to long term ROI objectives. The cost of acquiring a new customer needs to be weighed against the lifetime value of said customer and generating online visibility to ensure on-going organic growth of an ecommerce store is critical.

After COVID-19, businesses must now contend with the new normal defined by depressed economic activity, social distancing and changing consumer behaviour. There is still hesitance to visit a shopping mall for example, and people are likely to be more cost conscious than usual. While some businesses struggle to deal with the new normal, Antyra’s Chief Operating Officer Naveen Marasinghe says some of their clients have seen tremendous sales.

“The new normal has come to a point where people in general are spending more time online and now have a certain higher comfort level to shop online as well. It is the ideal time to capitalise on this trend,” he said. “Although revenue streams decline for some businesses because of poor offline sales, there is an opportunity to seriously consider digital platforms to make up for that shortfall. We have ample examples of our clients, who now generate more revenue online than they do from an individual physical store. Considering the need of the hour, Antyra launched AnCom, an ecommerce solution designed to help a business to start selling online in a matter of days,” he stated.

The core takeaway is for companies to look at digital seriously. While this does not necessarily mean to heavily invest in it, but instead, to be mindful of it and utilise it as best they can. As mentioned previously, Antyra Solutions’ 7 pillar framework defines the different stages and areas that businesses need to look at if they want to succeed in the ecommerce space.

“More often than not, there are challenges to start a business and sell online as well. The biggest drawback of selling a fantastic product online is the number of hoops you would have to jump through to get to that point. For example, for an individual or cottage industry, online payment processing can be a hurdle,” Marasinghe stated. “In my opinion, a deeper understanding of the opportunities out there and introducing policies that would empower businesses of any scale to be able to go online, sell online and bring in foreign revenue is critical to advance Sri Lanka’s digital economy,” he explained.