Thanks to the internet and the maturity of online retail, there has never been a better time in history for brands that manufacture product to build direct-to-consumer (D2C) distribution.
But while brands are increasingly pursuing D2C initiatives, success is not guaranteed and some will no doubt see their D2C efforts fall short of expectations.
So what can brands do to increase their chances of D2C success? Here’s a look at six things brands must have if they want to go D2C.
A compelling offering
Driving D2C sales is much easier for brands that have a compelling offer to consumers. Of course, there are many different ways to deliver this. For instance, some brands are known for quality, others for high value or low price. Others are differentiated primarily through strong branding that appeals to individuals who hold certain beliefs, live a particular lifestyle, etc.
Before launching D2C sales, a brand should thoroughly understand how it is perceived and differentiated in the market as this will impact virtually every aspect of its D2C marketing strategy.
A good website
In addition to having a compelling offering, it should go without saying that brands wanting to make the leap to D2C successfully need a good website.
But what makes for a good website? Among the most basic of requirements:
- A mobile-friendly design.
- Fast page loading.
- Checkout that doesn’t create unnecessary friction.
- Detailed, accurate product information.
- Quality product imagery.
- Robust search and discovery tools.
The good news for brands is that there today exist numerous cloud-based and self-hosted ecommerce platforms, eliminating the need for brands to reinvent the wheel. Of course, building a good website using these platforms requires knowledge and skill, but not having to build common ecommerce components from scratch is a godsend.
A great overall customer experience
A good website is one of the most important parts of overall customer experience, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of customer experience. Successful D2C brands think about the customer journey holistically from start to finish and strive to delight customers at all stages of it – even those that occur before potential customers even reach their website.
They also recognise that the customer journey doesn’t end after a purchase is made. In fact, the post-purchase experience is of critical importance today. Customers expect orders to be delivered quickly, undamaged and at low or no cost. They also expect a hassle-free return or exchange process.
Living up to these expectations can be surprisingly challenging to brands that are used to getting large shipments into the hands of major distributors but have limited experience dealing with individual consumer orders.
Digital marketing savvy
To compete effectively as D2C players, brands must become savvy digital marketers. This doesn’t mean that brands must develop expertise in or use all digital marketing channels, but given the competitiveness of online retail, brands realistically won’t be able to rely on just one or two channels.
The most successful brands leverage multiple types of media – paid, earned and owned – and numerous digital marketing channels, from email to search, in an effort to deliver to individuals the right kinds of engagement at the right times as they make their customer journeys.
A social strategy
While different brands might find that different digital marketing channels are more or less productive, as a general rule, a solid social media strategy is a necessity, not a nice-to-have, in today’s market. That’s because social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are where consumers are hanging out online, making it difficult for brands to avoid them.
Of course, there are numerous ways that brands can use social media. Those that want to directly engage consumers can become active participants with the aim of building virtual communities. They can also explore influencer marketing, which in recent years has become a staple of social media strategy for many brands.
Brands that aren’t prepared to jump head first into social media will still reasonably need to think about the ways they can reach consumers on social platforms. For example, brands can target on Facebook and Instagram individuals who have visited or taken action on their websites carts using Facebook’s remarketing tools.
Eagerness to form long-term customer relationships
Brands are attracted to D2C because it offers the potential for higher margins and increased customer loyalty, but lasting D2C success is ultimately determined by the quality of the relationships a brand is able to form with its customers.
As with all relationships, there are highs and lows, trials and tribulations, risks and rewards. This means that any brand contemplating building a D2C business must first ensure that it’s prepared to make the investment of time, energy and money required to establish meaningful direct customer relationships.