The economy and the way we buy goods and services have changed dramatically in the last few years. Although brick-and-mortar stores are still an important part of our economy, direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses have thrived in the digital age.
DTC businesses can offer customers quality, convenience, and competitive pricing. The biggest challenge, however, is reaching a DTC audience and building a loyal following. That’s where digital marketing strategies can come in—to help create brand awareness, ensure strong sales, and increase word-of-mouth advertising.
The Characteristics of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Businesses
A DTC’s defining characteristic is that it cuts out the middleman. Instead of a clothing company getting their textiles into a store like Walmart or Target, for instance, they would ship it directly to the consumer. Many DTCs operate under a subscription model for items that need to be replaced often, such as razors for shaving.
DTCs aren’t new, but they have gotten a lot more common as e-commerce has taken a much larger role in the economy. People love DTCs because they offer more transparency, cut out the markup of the middleman, and often provide better-quality items.
However, it can be easier to sell something if a person can go to a store and see it on the shelf when browsing. They can pick the item up and look at it before deciding whether to buy it. That’s one reason DTCs have to be proactive about marketing.
Building a Strong Brand Identity
For marketing DTC businesses, brand identity is critical. People buy from DTC businesses for a number of reasons (unique products, customer service experience, pricing, etc.), but most also appreciate feeling like they’re connected with the company, their brand story, and their products.
A DTC brand will thrive by essentially creating a “cult following” of people who identify and connect with the brand’s values and authenticity. Strong branding will help DTC businesses attract their ideal customers and build up momentum that will lead to a strong base of loyal fans.
Content Marketing, Ads, Email, and Social Media
Because DTCs often get people excited and help them with specific aspects of their lives, there are tons of ways to market the products they offer. DTC businesses should consider using several different techniques, such as:
- Content marketing—providing educational or informative content to build authority and trust among customers.
- Advertising—directly selling products to customers via ads.
- Email marketing—promoting engagement and providing value through email.
- Social media marketing—sharing product and company information on social media platforms to encourage sharing and word-of-mouth promotion.
The right combination of approaches for any DTC will depend a lot on the business, its products, and its target market. A DTC marketing to Gen Z, for instance, will use different marketing platforms and tactics than one that’s aiming for Millennials. It’s common for businesses to stretch themselves too thin and not focus on the most effective channels for their target market, which can lead to trouble down the road.
Partnerships, Influencer Marketing, and User-Generated Content
For direct-to-consumer businesses, word-of-mouth promotion is incredibly important. When people share information about DTC businesses and their products, it lends credibility to these companies. Working with other businesses, influencers, and even current customers can be a great way to generate brand awareness and hype.
Partnerships with other companies can help to create visibility by providing exposure to a new, but related audience. Brands need to be careful only to partner with other companies that share similar values and a similar target market in order to use this tactic successfully.
Influencer marketing is also great for DTC businesses—as long as the ROI is there. Since influencer marketing is a relatively new offshoot of social media marketing, there’s not much in the way of standardization for rates, and it’s easy to overspend.
User-generated content is one of the best ways for DTC brands to engage existing fans and gain new ones. When users create content that features the brand’s products, they are sharing them with an audience that (hopefully) trusts their judgment. It can be an easy, free way to get content and build brand awareness!
Making the Most of Data and Analytics
DTCs have the advantage of data when it comes to understanding their customers’ wants and needs. While brands will always get some data from selling through a retailer or other middleman, it can be harder to extract helpful insights from these sales. Direct sales, on the other hand, tell you a lot more about the purchase and the purchaser than a retailer ever could.
Data can provide several benefits for a DTC business. In addition to providing information on the company’s customers and providing retargeting opportunities, data can be used to make strategic business decisions. This is why many organizations bring in an analyst to help unlock insights that can be used in business growth.
DTC Businesses are Ideally Suited to Digital Marketing Strategies
Today’s DTC businesses are usually e-commerce companies, providing a convenient alternative to the traditional methods of shopping. Because of this, they usually offer a unique product or service and can inspire strong brand loyalty.
All of these attributes make today’s digital marketing techniques extremely effective for DTC companies. By embracing the different options for spreading the word and telling their stories, DTCs can grow an audience, make more sales, and ultimately, become a popular force for good in the world.