In a world where DTC brands are becoming ubiquitous in the market, with customers demanding more accountability and transparency from companies, there is certainly an extra bit of pressure on the shoulders.
Fortunately for those of us that have taken the plunge already, it’s possible to thrive as a direct-to-consumer business in this new era.
We’ve compiled strategies that will help you survive and thrive.
1. Align content production with your customer base
Content is king when it comes to DTC businesses, but which type should you be focusing on?
Screen capture videos may be good enough for some demographics while educational blogs might work better for others.
The brand’s target demographic will help guide which content is best for producing.
2. Think open and transparent
As a direct-to-consumer business, the brand may not have to worry about maintaining stock levels of a certain product as there are plenty of customers ordering in bulk.
This means that keeping your customers updated on your progress can be challenging when you’re unable to do so on a regular basis.
For example, if the brand produces a limited edition product and labels it as something else along the way, people may be confused by the lack of updates about its release date or production status.
3. Design for your customers and not for yourself
There’s no better way to get onboard with this new marketing method than by answering the question, “What do my customers want?”
The brand’s target demographic will help identify what products are needed, which again, can then be used to direct content production efforts.
However, one subtle but effective way to create relationships with your customers is by making their problems your problems.
The brand should be able to replicate the pain points of its customers and work toward fixing them when redesigning or creating new products.
4. Give your consumers a voice in the product creation process
The DTC business model was built on innovation.
The brand should always be implementing new solutions into its products that will benefit customers.
Giving consumers the opportunity to voice which problems they’ve been experiencing with your products makes the brand an active participant in their lives, as well as providing them with a sense of accountability for these issues.
5. Consider consumer feedback when redesigning
DTC brands have a unique opportunity to test and implement new ideas across a large customer base.
However, it is vital to do so responsibly as it’s easy for customers to feel lost if there’s too much product redesign or iteration occurring at one time.
By creating new products to help solve specific problems, the customer will know that they’re receiving a product that actually solves their issue and not just a reformulation of the same product.
6. Validate your business model
DTC businesses are often focused on providing customer service in addition to content.
This marks a drastic shift from the traditional brick-and-mortar premise where the business is only concerned with providing products.
It’s important to adjust the balance of resources between customer service and content production, especially if there’s not enough human labor to answer inquiries while generating high levels of production for videos and other media channels.
7. Understand the importance of consistency
For DTC businesses, consistency is often viewed as one of the most important pillars of the business.
Customers will get bored if a new product is released and it doesn’t have similar components or print quality as its predecessor.
The brand should be able to explain why a new product is being produced in order to help alleviate any confusion about what they’re getting.
8. Create an internal team to help troubleshoot issues
DTC brands are relying on their customers more than ever before, so it only makes sense that they create and employ internal teams that can better suit their needs and expectations.
This can help the business optimize its efforts by receiving suggestions and feedback from its people.
The process of developing new products may rely on customer feedback for unlocking new ideas.
If a customer has been experiencing issues with a certain item, it might make sense to employ other customers to voice their opinion on the newly introduced product and incorporate their thoughts.
9. Partner with a third-party marketing agency
DTC businesses will find that partnering up with an outsourced marketing agency will be invaluable as they can leverage the creation of content and the fulfillment of orders to free up resources for other things.
A DTC business may benefit from hiring someone to create videos on their channel while they focus on the fulfillment.
Marketing agencies are tuned into the nuances of DTC brands and will be able to provide additional services related to strategy that might not have otherwise been possible for the brand in-house.
10. Consider selling additional products in a bundle
While it’s easy to sell one product, it’s much harder to convince customers that buying multiple items is worth their time.
However, bundling multiple products can help alleviate barriers such as shipping costs and production logistics by giving customers a discount rate for buying more than one item at once.
Also, a bundle can provide satisfaction to customers by giving them a sense that they’re making a smart investment.
11. Allow customers to contribute to campaigns
The easiest way for DTC businesses to create content is by allowing customers to directly contribute and/or offer suggestions.
For example, the brand might have an acting contest where it uses customer video submissions to create content, or they might run a Kickstarter-like campaign where they ask their followers for feedback on which products should be incorporated into their line and then implement their suggestions into production.
12. Always be thinking about the future
The future of a DTC brand is often viewed as another cash cow for the business due to an increase in sales beyond the initial novelty that attracted customers in the first place.
The needs of customers can change over time, and it’s important for brands to invest in ways that allow them to better serve their customers.
The rate of change should be factored into the decision-making process when creating new products, especially if there’s no precedent on how customers will receive them.
DTC businesses need a sustainable business model because they are relying on paid subscribers instead of free visitors to generate ad revenue.
The key to creating a sustainable DTC brand is ensuring that the customers you have are engaged and returning.
13. Create content for all of your products
The easiest way to keep customers engaged and coming back for more is to provide them with free perks, or additional information, that is exclusive to their brand.
DTC brands might include special access to behind-the-scenes videos or backstage looks at upcoming projects as a part of their email subscriptions.
This type of content can hold audiences’ attention because it’s authentic and informative as it’s relevant to the goals of the brand.
14. Create stronger brands for customers to identify with
DTC businesses create a sense of belonging and identification between their brand and the products they create.
Professional modeling agencies may include a reference in their email newsletters to showcase the new photos of clients that they have just been sent.
DTC branding is created by creating an opinion, following, or voice within the market that is tied into your brand.
15. Create exclusive products for customers
There’s nothing more engaging than having something that only your customers can have access to, so it’s important for DTC brands to think about how they can keep followers engaged by offering exclusivity to them.
The Yacht Club created a mailing list for select customers that offered them early access and exclusive information about upcoming tours and cruises.
16. Create a consistent voice across platforms
DTC brands use social media to actively engage with their customers in order to build brand awareness and create a following of users.
Social media gives DTC brands the opportunity to create a unique identity that will be remembered among the many different products that they offer.
For example, Bella Petit, an online boutique known for its feminine and fun clothing collections, uses its Instagram account (@bellapetit) as a way to communicate daily inspiration by posting pictures of their collections or featuring models wearing the clothes from their most recent collection.
17. Use social media to engage your customers
Social media platforms are an integral part of DTC brands’ marketing efforts, and they want their customers to feel a sense of community with the brands they choose to purchase from.
The more that customers feel a sense of belonging with a company, the higher likelihood that they will purchase its products in the future.
Engaging on social media is one way DTC brands are able to build this bond between their products and people that they serve.
18. Target an audience that is influential in your industry
The DTC business model depends on social media to build and maintain relationships with customers.
While social media can be a cost-effective way for brands to increase awareness, it requires them to adjust their tactics based on the type of audience that they serve.
A customer who spends more on beauty products are more likely to share the brands that they buy from via social media.
This allows DTC brands to find people that are influential in their market and target them with ads in order to create brand awareness among potential buyers.
19. Plan your post schedule carefully
When creating social media content, DTC brands will want to plan their posts well in advance of when they’re actually going to be posted.
The reason for this is because social media is often flooded with other posts that compete with the ones that DTC brands want to promote.
If a DTC brand wants to post a special offer for its customers, it will most likely need to promote it several days before the actual offer goes live.
This helps prevent potential customers from being fooled by fake offers and promotes legitimacy among those who can be affected by the promotion.
20. Make the customer feel like they are part of the process
DTC brands are constantly creating new products, so it’s important for them to make their customers feel like they were part of this process themselves.
For example, The Yacht Club only recruits its customers for feedback in order to gather opinions from people who have already shown an interest in these types of products.
This way, the business is able to validate its products and maintain a sense of transparency with customers.
21. Create a brand that is memorable and easy to recognize
It’s important for DTC brands to make sure that their social media accounts are memorable and easy to recognize so that they can generate more engagement from their target audiences.
It’s also crucial for the business to use its platforms as a way to connect with customers on a personal level.
For example, Bella Petit uses its Instagram account (@bellapetit) as a way for customers to share photos of themselves wearing the brand’s clothes or using the products in the Bella Petit collection. This helps strengthen the relationship between customers and DTC brands by establishing a sense of exclusivity that is valuable among followers.
In addition, paid social is a great way to build relationships with customers and increase loyalty to the brand.
If a customer interacts with your brand through paid ads, they will be considered as a “fans” of the brand.
This increases the likelihood that they will purchase from your product lines again in the future.
Social media also can be used to create viral campaigns that bring awareness to products that otherwise would not receive much attention in traditional marketing channels like television and radio advertisements or print ads.
Over the past several decades, DTC brands have learned how to use social media in order to promote their products and companies effectively.
In terms of generating awareness for their brands, DTC businesses especially do it well. According to a report from the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (PDF), 92% of DTC businesses post daily on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Overall, these brands produce about 4 posts per day.
This creates a sense of affinity that is valued by their audience and is crucial to building brand awareness in the market.