How DTC Ecommerce Brands Can Own the Customer Journey
Head to anyone’s drawing board of startup ideas and chances are you’ll see “start selling products online” written down. And for good reason.
Ecommerce has a low barrier to entry because you don’t need as much capital to get started as you do with a brick-and-mortar business, and you can start selling on a number of different ecommerce platforms as soon as tomorrow. Once you’ve scaled it, you could sell your ecommerce business for a huge amount of money.
One of the biggest challenges faced when building an ecommerce brand is figuring out how to grow its reputation. You usually need to pump a lot of capital into a business to see real growth, and most entrepreneurs reach a plateau where they feel like their brand isn’t growing fast enough to compete with other brands.
What if you could build a brand that could go toe-to-toe with traditional retailers, despite having a fraction of the budget and manpower?
Enter one of the fastest-growing trends in the industry: direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce.
What is DTC Ecommerce?
DTC ecommerce, also referred to as D2C, removes the middleman from the purchasing process so you deal directly with the customer while handling logistics, packaging, storage, control pricing, manufacturing, and fulfillment.
Since you’re responsible for every aspect of the business, you can supercharge profits by lowering expenses and streamlining operations.
Having total control over the entire business is largely why the direct to consumer model has soared in popularity in recent years. Entrepreneurs can now create a brand from their living room that’s just as popular as traditional retail consumer brands.
As mentioned earlier, ecommerce models like DropShipping and marketplaces (like Amazon) handle logistics, order fulfilment, and tools to help with the marketing. The key difference with the DTC model from these types of ecommerce models is the removal of the middle-men who manage these processes on your behalf. Instead, if you run a DTC model you will be liaising with the suppliers, manufacturers, 3PL service providers, and crucially, the customers.
Through social media channels, blogs, and other digital marketing channels, you speak directly to the customer through social media and other channels. Forging strong customer relationships is a defining key factor of DTC, as customers want a personalized shopping experience and to feel like they’re part of a community.
Let’s have a look at some strategies around how to engage your customers and leave a strong impression.
5 Tips for Creating a Customer Experience Worth Remembering
By owning the customer journey, you can use the DTC model to turn normal everyday items into trendy household brand names.
Consumer companies such as Warby Parker, Away, Casper, Harry’s, and Dollar Shave Club are great examples of entrepreneurs closely controlling the customer journey in order to build relationships.
Strong branding and customer relationship building are why these companies can take common items like glasses, suitcases, mattresses, and razors and make them into something that people will become brand evangelists for.
Through DTC ecommerce, you can also create a strong retail brand without having to rely on financial backing from venture capitalists or high rollers in New York. It starts by getting to know your customers’ needs.
Here are some tips for creating an exceptional customer experience.
Ask for Feedback
What if I told you that there was a simple technique to increase your conversion rate, improve optimization, and keep retention rates high?
Asking customers for feedback on their recent experience purchasing your product gives you valuable insight into your target audience. Armed with this information, you can make vital changes to your marketing strategy that align with their expectations of your product.
As vital as this step is for building customer relationships, many owners of ecommerce brands shy away from asking for feedback from a fear of negative reviews.
Instead, think of feedback as an opportunity to develop customer relationships while improving your brand.
Customers love hearing from brands they follow and being given the chance to provide input. Asking for a customer’s opinion on their recent purchase and on your brand lets them know their voice is being heard.
This simple act of outreach makes the relationship a two-way street instead of a linear transactional arrangement where they buy something from you and that’s it. The first step is to start a conversation.
Experiment with Your DTC Marketing Channels
Many ecommerce companies use paid advertising as their main traffic channel. While paid advertising with sharp copywriting can be highly effective, you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential traffic and sales if you neglect other channels.
Varying your marketing strategies by building up different digital marketing channels will help you gain new customers and strengthen brand loyalty from existing customers.
DTC marketing can be used to engage customers on several platforms, which means you can create marketing campaigns that vary in content and delivery.
If your target audience consists of a younger demographic, setting up social media accounts where they’re most likely to hang out could prove effective. Be smart about which social media platforms you use by identifying the type of content in which your product and brand works best.
If it’s a product that people will take selfies with, Instagram is your best bet, and products that inspire new ideas do well on Pinterest. It might take some experimentation, but see what type of format resonates with your target demographic and build from there.
To extend your brand’s reach, consider partnering with influencers who can feature your product and give you a shout out. With just a few collaborations, you can tap into new audiences who are likely to be interested in your brand.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with going old-school. SMS is a communication channel that many entrepreneurs don’t associate with digital marketing, yet a recent study found that that 48.7 million telecom customers had agreed to receive SMS texts from brands they follow, and 82% acknowledged that they open all SMS texts that they receive, confirming that SMS is far from a dead form of communication.
Source: Oars and Alps
If you can deliver short and concise messages along with product or service offerings that you’re sure your customers will love, think about the types of marketing campaigns you can build through SMS.
We love email marketing at Empire Flippers. As a digital marketing channel as old as the internet itself, it remains one of the best tools for customer acquisition.
Customers who opt in to your email list have pretty much told you they’re happy to hear from you at any time about new product launches or the latest promotions.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to sell any products or monetize your list for it to be valuable. If you deliver a weekly newsletter sharing industry-specific bite-sized insights, subscribers will open and even share them on social media.
Over time, you can nurture a strong following that you can address at any time without relying on search engine algorithms.
If you don’t have the marketing chops to implement all of the above, consider hiring specialized marketers who can scale new marketing channels while you focus on building the business in other ways.
Customers who discover that a brand provides value beyond expectations tend to be the most satisfied, often becoming brand evangelists excited to share their awesome experiences without prompting.
We’ve covered the types of marketing channels you can use, but what you publish determines whether you build meaningful relationships with your customers.
Here’s where content can provide value even before a customer has bought your product. Through useful content, you can educate customers so they’re better informed and able to make smarter choices. Helpful content can be delivered through any marketing channel, such as email, blog articles, or even SMS.
Providing useful content also builds a relationship by offering information that helps solve customers’ problems beyond the solutions your products offer.
While the volume of content is important, quality is also essential. To determine what type of content to produce, look to customer data for inspiration. For example, you might find people from certain regions search for your products more often and are more likely to buy from your store than people from other regions.
There are tools that can give you an indication of the type of content your target audience prefers. Heatmaps such as Hotjar can show you where potential customers most often engage with your content and where they stay away from. One way heatmap software can help is when you see repeated clicks around the same area, which might indicate copy that doesn’t make sense or the customer had difficulty finding certain information.
With these insights, you can optimize your marketing by removing content with poor engagement or adding content that your target audience is most interested in.
Tell a Story
Now, more than ever, storytelling is a staple of successful marketing. It’s what content marketing is all about, as customers love being swept up in a good story.
You’ll want to see how the plot unfolds in a new Netflix series if you care enough about the characters. You usually start scrolling if you don’t find anything worth sticking with.
The same goes for DTC. Ask yourself what would cause your audience to stop scrolling and what would make them really care.
Customers will engage with your story if you share why the brand exists. Many entrepreneurs created their own products because they found that none of the services available could help with a problem they had. For example, the shoe brand TOMS was founded as a way to provide free shoes for children in developing countries with every pair of shoes purchased.
The story was featured in an article by the Los Angeles Times, which led to shoe orders nine times the amount of available stock.
Such storytelling is powerful because the main character in the story isn’t you or your brand—it’s the customer. They’re the ones affecting significant change, and you’re only there to help them with your product or service. How your brand achieves that should be at the core of your story, and it will help customers remember what your brand is all about.
While crafting your story and scaling your marketing channels, remember to be consistent with your brand messaging. While it can pay off to try something new every so often, the underlying message in all your content should adhere to your company’s core values. Even one ad or social media post that suggests otherwise could result in a PR headache and a loss of sales.
Make It Personal
Be bold about your design and product. Product quality obviously matters, but how a brand looks plays a big part in whether or not it is remembered.
Incorporating brand identity into product design becomes a talking point when consumers are seen using your product and other people are interested.
Communication with your customers should be highly personalized. To make them the main character of the story you’re weaving in your copy, remember to highlight how the product helps them instead of filling your content with feature overload. Making sure your customers feel like they have a more personal connection with the brand is crucial to DTC, so ensure that your copy isn’t generic or filled with run-of-the-mill buzzwords, such as guaranteed, breakthrough, and unlock.
It’s a common copywriting mistake to talk about why your product is great by outlining the specs. We often see this in product listings that detail all the specs at the top of the page before getting to the crux of how these specs make a tangible difference in a customer’s life. If you had to read through a wall of text before getting to why something is useful to you, you’d probably move on to something else.
Communicating the core benefits that align with your target audience’s needs can help you personalize the copy and elevate your brand above your competitors.
Is DTC Ecommerce the Right Business for You?
Successful DTC brands are more than just a great product. The strength of customer relationships is just as important as the service offering, if not more so.
This is why customers are happy to try out new brands. Recent research shows that how long or established a brand is doesn’t affect consumers’ buying decisions as much now as it once did. Instead, consumers care about factors such as how cost effective a product is and how innovative a brand is.
If you’re interested in starting your own DTC ecommerce business, you’ll need to remember that you’re also in charge of the consumer experience and journey, including marketing and communication. Even if you get the operations side down to a T but fail to create a strong connection with your customers, it’ll be difficult to get your brand off the ground.
Establishing a unique brand identity is the foundation of creating good relationships with customers. With a unique brand identity, you can sell even the most ordinary products.
Alternatives to DTC Ecommerce
As you can see, there’s a lot of potential in DTC ecommerce. At this point, you might be considering starting your own business from scratch. While it’s possible to do so on a bootstrapped budget, it takes a lot of time and energy before your efforts start paying off.
Building a brand is difficult because you need to find out what your customers want and build the brand around that. It might be months before your brand becomes profitable.
What if you could skip the grueling start-up phase and start earning profit from day one?
Buying an established ecommerce business is an increasingly popular method for becoming an ecommerce entrepreneur. You could acquire a business that’s already in a profitable niche and an established target market so that you can focus on running the business.
Sign up for free on our marketplace to start looking for the best ecommerce businesses for sale that meet your budget and criteria.
Once you’ve gotten used to running the business, you can set your sights on scaling it to emulate the DTC model in terms of brand and customer relationship building.
You could also use ecommerce models like Amazon FBA and DropShipping, which are more hands-off than the DTC model, since the more time-consuming aspects are handled for you.
That means they are also a lower barrier to entry if you’ve never run your own ecommerce business, as being responsible for every area in a DTC business can be overwhelming.
DropShipping could be your business model if you’re not comfortable handling inventory at all, as the vendors fulfill customer orders for you.
The biggest downside to DropShipping is the lack of control you have over customizing the product, since you pick white label SKUs to list for sale that aren’t personalized. Since you don’t have much control over the product, profit margins tend to be paper thin. Scaling a DropShipping business usually involves selling in volume.
If you want a bit more control over the product, Amazon FBA is another great entry-level ecommerce business model. Selling through FBA gives you tools like Amazon A+ Content to help you build strong customer relationships without having to worry about the fulfilment side of things.
Once your brand is more established, omnichannel selling is a straightforward process after starting with Amazon. You can venture into international Amazon marketplaces like the EU or start a new storefront on ecommerce platforms outside of Amazon. Taking things offline by fulfilling wholesale orders or supplying retail brick-and-mortar stores is another way to increase your sales channels.
The relationship between brands and consumers has changed a lot over the years. You can’t just market your products through one-off advertising or blasts and sit back and wait. Today’s consumers demand a lot more from ecommerce brands.
The great thing is that anyone can use effective marketing to create and maintain a great relationship with the customer. As long as you put a human touch in all your marketing efforts, people will remember your brand for all the right reasons and want to purchase from you.