by Amba Wilkes
There are numerous benefits that come with going direct-to-consumer (DTC) beyond driving sales -brand profile, brand equity, competitive edge, building a direct connection with your audience. And that’s just the start.
Wherever you are in your DTC journey, customer acquisition should be a top priority. But for those manufacturers whose brands have – until now – remained behind the scenes, how do you pivot to create a consumer-facing business?
Take a read to find out what you need to consider for DTC success.
Building a brand.
What's one of the main DTC challenges facing manufacturers? Building a brand.
As a manufacturer, you hold the crucial and core expertise of making the products. But you may lack in-house expertise in other areas simply because you've never needed to consider them before. To build a successful DTC brand, you have a new challenge on your hands – how to tell your story, build interest in your brand and drive traffic to your eCommerce store.
To do this, you’ll need to formulate a good old fashioned consumer marketing plan. The reality of this is not without its challenges, it's likely to take some time and money. Customers are not without choice these days. To be a success, you need the vision and determination to create something compelling.
Investing in your team.
With the right vision and the right people, it can be done. Recognising the future of the business needs to change requires bold leadership. Creating an eCommerce team that can deliver this vision is the first step to DTC success.
Do you have the right people in-house? If all you've ever done is deal with retailers, probably not. Are you willing to bring onboard new people, new ideas and new ways of thinking to help build your consumer-facing brand? If your ambition is to build a successful consumer brand, you have to be open to change. It's important to recognise where there are expertise deficiencies so you can plug these gaps. After all, competition is intense, and your team needs to be strong.
You either need to supplement your in-house team, outsource to agencies or, more commonly, use a hybrid approach. Providing your in-house team with the support of a knowledgeable agency is often a winning formula.
To acquire customers, your brand needs to connect with your target audience. This starts with an understanding of who your audience is, what matters to them and how to reach them.
If you're a brand moving into DTC for the first time, it's important to create momentum around what you do.
Many eCommerce sites will perform poorly in the first few weeks and months because they fail to build curiosity. The aim is to get people talking about you before you launch. You either need to create this hype yourself by doing something different or attach yourself to someone who's doing it already.
A great place for this is social media. Collaborating with relevant influencers creates a community and a connection with your audience. Assembling a team of influential individuals will help build interest, likes, followers and your email list. Growing this following before your site goes live means you'll have warmed up potential customers ready for launch.
Although influencer marketing has recently reached dizzying heights, brand collaboration has been around for some time. Even during the 40s and 50s famous film stars were endorsed to wear products while the likes of Michael Jordan began collaborating with Nike in the 80s.
It's human behaviour to follow the activities of others. While the channels you reach customers on may have evolved, this concept is still very much the same. If someone is on that waiting list, this makes others want a piece of the pie which, in turn, builds interest.
Consider your digital marketing strategy
After putting all that effort into crafting the perfect user experience, it's time to turn your attention to your digital marketing strategy.
For your eCommerce store to perform, you need to drive users to your site. If no one knows your site exists, how will you generate revenue? Your marketing strategy should consider where you will find them, what they will be searching for and how you can reach them at different stages of the shopping journey.
An effective place to start is by understanding who you’re competing against. This insight can help you achieve a competitive edge, increase your bottom line and identify growth opportunities. If you want to find out who your competition is, our connected agency, WMG, offer a free competitor analysis.
When piecing your digital marketing strategy together, channels could include:
- SEO: SEO helps search engines crawl, index, rank and ultimately serve your site to relevant searches. However, there's more to those high rankings than you may think - from technical SEO to content to building up your domain authority with outreach and digital PR. You may want to consider how a specialist agency or dedicated in-house expert could help grow your organic presence to drive more users to your store.
- PPC: Providing more immediate visibility than SEO, PPC is an essential tactic while your organic presence grows and beyond. This could include prospecting and remarketing to lost visitors to encourage them back to your site. Allowing you to compete with more established brands faster, PPC boosts your visibility in the SERPs and can be used to maximise traffic to your site from brand searches too as your DTC presence grows.
- Social: Social platforms have become the place for building brand communities. These channels are a good way of showing who you are, what you stand for and what you offer in a more visual and engaging way. Using paid social advertising enables you to reach more of your target audience, grows your following and encourages communication by offering another touchpoint with consumers.
- Email: A steadfast marketing method, as your database grows, email is a way to connect directly with your audience. Use it to support customer service, request social proof such as reviews, promote new products, shout about promotions and support customer loyalty.
Building loyal customers
Going beyond acquisition, how do you get those customers to return again and again?
To create a loyal customer base, it's about putting them at the core of your proposition. You may have heard the term 'customer centricity' before, but what does it mean in practice?
As a starting point, it involves offering a brilliant product. However, this doesn't mean it has to be unique - it just has to be good. For example, Gymshark didn't create sports clothing. In fact, they're in an increasingly competitive market. But they design products that are in tune with the needs, wants and desires of their audience.
While it's crucial to create momentum before launching your store, when you go live, it's equally as important to deliver a great customer experience. Is it easy to place an order? Does the product arrive when expected? Am I paying a reasonable price? Is the return process simple? Can I get in touch easily? Have they given me a reason to come back? Creating this positive first impression is fundamental to getting shoppers to return.
The first thing many consumers do today is check reviews to see if your brand offers high-quality products and service. At this point, it's time to start building credibility, trust and confidence through social proof.
Customer service and operations
The exciting part of building a brand is often creating that all-important interest we've discussed. But it's extremely important that your teams are close to this process too. Asking questions such as the below will help you get on the right tracks:
- Is the user experience spot on? Has it been tested?
- Is the process of getting the product from you to the customer smooth and efficient?
- Is your warehouse team prepped to manage a high influx of orders?
- Is your customer service team equipped to handle a high volume of questions? Do they know the answers to these questions?
Over to you
If you're going DTC for the first time, this is your chance to do it properly. Create a compelling narrative around your brand, build interest and deliver a great customer experience. Capture and display your customers' delight with reviews, testimonials and social proof.
These end-to-end considerations will empower you to get your DTC brand off the ground, acquire customers, retain customers and build confidence in future customers.
Working with the likes of Prestige and Taylors of Harrogate, we’ve supported many businesses in building a DTC presence and driving sales in the competitive world of eCommerce. As a premier Shopify Plus partner, when it comes to DTC, we can help you with more than just building a website. We can help you build your brand.
Get in touch with our eCommerce specialists and we can chat to you about your next steps.