Over the last decade, D2C marketing strategies have gained fresh momentum, as brands have leveraged social media, viral content, and SEO for great results. Here are six brands that deployed disruptive methods to unlock the benefits of direct marketing to customers.
In a world where giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba rule retail, how do smaller retailers make their mark? Direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing is the answer. The current D2C market size backs up this hypothesis.
The number of D2C brands is continually growing, and 81% of Americans say they will make at least one D2C purchase in the next five years. These brands have garnered a loyal customer base, with 63% saying that referrals bring them more business than digital ads. Given this promising trend, it’s imperative that brands young and established brush up on D2C marketing strategies to strengthen their relationships with customers.
What Is Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) Marketing?
D2C marketing aims to cut out the middleman in acquiring new customers. In the pre-digital era, this meant door-to-door salespeople sharing product catalogs or contact center executives who would cold-call their prospects.
The D2C marketing of 2019–2020 relies mainly an e-commerce site as the hub of all sales. These brands set up their own websites with purchasing options and intelligently market – directly – to a niche customer base.
D2C marketing strategies have taken on a whole new dimension thanks to social media. According to a 2019 report, 61% of D2C brands rely on social media to reach customers. SEO is a close second (51%) in acquiring customers. You will notice that there is very little reliance on paid ads and e-commerce aggregators (like Amazon).
IAB research found that in most categories (starting from mattresses and furniture, to pet products, personal care, and beverages), D2C brands are fast gaining market share from incumbents.
6 D2C Success Stories and Lessons for Marketers
We looked at six brands that have made their mark in the D2C segment, to learn more about the secret sauce of D2C marketing.
1. Share deeper insights into the product, like Warby Parker
A benefit of choosing D2C marketing over traditional sales channels is that you have the full, undivided attention of the customer. Once customers visit your online store or social media channel, you aren’t competing with multiple other products in your segment.
Leverage this attention by sharing enriching insights on how the product is made — this will help to inspire interest, which of course needs to be validated by the product’s quality.
Warby Parker, the D2C eyeglass company, has an entire page dedicated to how its products are designed, produced, and quality checked. Transparency is a watchword here, with Warby Parker deep-diving into the design process, its office culture, and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
2. Foster a community of buyers, like TechStyle
The consumer is a D2C marketer’s biggest asset. They bring in referrals, make repeat purchases, and promote the brand via social media.
That’s why TechStyle set up a membership program that would deliver high-quality fashion products to its customers on a monthly basis. This also includes free shipping and customization as per the buyer’s needs.
In 2018, the company pushed its value proposition even further, by partnering with global superstar Rihanna. TechStyle’s D2C marketing strategy demonstrates the benefits of the subscription model. You can leverage this strategy to ensure a steady flow of customers. As long as your products are on-point, the community will stay loyal.
3. Don’t be afraid to go offline, like Taft
While it’s true that social media is a vital marketing tool for D2C brands, there are several other options you can explore.
For example, if your brand has garnered interest from a sizeable local audience, it could be the perfect time to open a store. Start with location-specific content targeting on Instagram and Facebook. Once you reach a certain engagement threshold, launch an offline billboard campaign, and finally open the doors to a physical location.
One of the biggest benefits of D2C marketing is that you have a ready audience of interested buyers waiting to flock to your store. Digital native retailer, Taft, took advantage of this with its first store, now open in SoHo. The brand continues to follow its digitally-driven sales and marketing strategy, with the physical space acting as another channel of interaction.
4. Find (or create) your own customer demographic, like UpWest
D2C marketing strategies are all about identifying and speaking to a unique customer segment. Instead of broad demographics based on gender, age, or location, you need thorough market research to identify your customers’ exact aspirations and problem areas.
For example, there have been several reports suggesting that millennials spend more time at home and on self-care than other generations. Insights like this can help finetune your marketing strategy so it finds resonance with your target audience.
UpWest, a direct-to-consumer brand owned by retail major Express, gives this a fresh and memorable spin with its JOMO marketing focus – geared towards people experiencing the “joy of missing out” rather than the more common FOMO. It is looking to market personal care products and leisurewear with this almost revolutionary stance.
5. Sustain customer engagement after a sale, like Bloomscape
D2C brands are often digital-only, without the offline presence available to bigger retailers. As a result, your customers could just disconnect after buying and might not return, as they may encounter the brand in limited spaces.
To prevent this, it is advisable to establish a post-sale communication strategy. This could include a hand-written note included in the product packaging, follow-up emails, and informative content on any recently purchased product/s.
Indoor plant seller, Bloomscape recognized the importance of this D2C marketing strategy when it started its online-only store in 2017. The company has a rich repository of video content on YouTube, not to mention a unique onboarding kit that guides customers on how to get started with their brand new plant.
6. Nurture a strong visual identity in partnership with influencers like Senreve
A brand’s visual identity could make all the difference in retail. By maintaining a consistent and carefully curated aesthetic across your social media handles – from how your products are photographed, the user-generated content that you reshare on stories, and static assets like cover/display photos – you can make a lasting impression. This will ensure that customers choose your brand once they are ready to convert.
Luxury D2C brand, Senreve, which has become a favorite with Hollywood celebrities, puts its visual identity at the forefront of its marketing strategy. The company has partnered with influencers like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Garner to drive home the premium nature of its offerings. Even as the brand scales, Senreve is careful to maintain a strategic visual identity so its products are instantly recognizable.
Wrapping Up: A Disruption Blueprint for You to Follow
D2C marketing can seem difficult at first, but once you get the wheels running, a steady flow of customers is sure to propel your business forward. Follow this blueprint to make it all happen:
- Outline one consistent value for every product, interaction, and campaign
- Make customers part of the production and fulfillment journey
- Build a loyal following for your product/brand experience through continuous engagement
- Explore a multitude of sales and marketing channels, for your D2C brand, including offline
- Tap into hidden or recently emerging customer demographics as well as micro-demographics
- Create an ongoing line of communication even after the sale is complete
- Maintain a visual identity that’s geared for immediate brand recall, aided by influencers
At its heart, D2C relies on an “emotional connection” with the product and the brand, and that keeps the customer coming back. Your D2C marketing strategy should be designed exactly for this purpose, to stand out among all the big retailers out there.