What do you envision when you see or hear the term “D2C Marketing”? For most of us, it’s brands like Outdoor Voices, Glossier, Everlane, Casper, Dollar Shave Club, All Birds, and Warby Parker. But what do all of these brands’ marketing have in common? The convoluted answer to that is everything and nothing. But more simply, at the end of the day, these brands create opportunities for their customers to give feedback and ideas, and ultimately, they turn those ideas into products, experiences, and messaging.
As we unpack some key marketing strategies for leading Direct-to-Consumer brands, you’ll notice that behind these strategies is a sense of open-endedness. This open-endedness is often filled by the customer’s feedback, ultimately informing the brand’s strategy altogether.
D2C Marketing Strategies
A really good example of iconic packaging is the Glossier bubble wrap makeup bag. At first, this bubble wrap bag was *the thing* to photograph and be seen with. Glossier sent this with every order (even to returning customers), so as you can imagine, loyal customers began to really stock up. Their customers began to express their concern through social media comments and DM’s that sending a plastic bubble-wrap makeup bag with every order is not a sustainable choice.
Glossier’s audience skews younger, and as we know, Gen Z has been known to change policies and procedures overnight with their committed efforts via social media. Glossier’s customers asked that the brand simply make the bubble-wrap makeup bag optional when checking out, and that is exactly what they did!
This is one of our favorite examples because it shows that a brand needs to evolve and grow alongside their customer. Something that works in the beginning, might not be sustainable (literally) in the long run. Be ready to listen to your customer and make changes, especially around packaging and sustainability.
Be a Culture-Add on TikTok
Whoever is running the TikTok account needs to understand not only what a stitch and duet is, but also be able to pinpoint trends and sounds before they reach peak-fame on the platform. This is a platform that rewards humor, creativity, and frankly, can be quite savage. The voice behind the account must grasp this and be able to be a culture-add to the platform.
Don’t Greenwash, Virtue Signal, or Be Performative
Figure out the causes you and your customers care about. Be consistent. Don’t use vague terms like “all-natural” or “clean” without being able to educate and express why those things are true. Essentially, customers and followers are looking for year-round authentic action instead of baseless or performative “support” or “allyship”. Rule of thumb: if you begin to think anything surrounding social movements, sustainability, or charity is a d2c marketing tactic, then you probably need to rethink brand values and how you present them. As they’d say on social, “this isn’t it.”
Seamless Returns and Exchanges
One of the drivers in consumers choosing brick-and-mortar retail over eCommerce is try-on, convenience, and returns. Having a seamless return and exchanges experience that makes returning convenient is one of the best retention strategies. Our friends at Loop Returns are revolutionizing the eCom returns space thru printerless returns, Instant Exchanges, and offering credit alongside refunds. Prioritizing the post-purchase experience, in every capacity, truly is marketing in its purest form.
Create Walking Advertisements
The most notable example of this is the Outdoor Voices tote bag. When the brand was just getting started, this tote bag was a large contributor to the brands’ initial success. Every “it girl” walking the streets of New York City had one. We don’t necessarily recommend a tote bag anymore, as that has become quite oversaturated and doesn’t have the effect it once did (for most). But, we do suggest creating “walking advertisement” opportunities for your customer. Whether it’s a tote bag, a hat, or a pair of socks – design and messaging are everything. The reason the Outdoor Voices bag performed so well is because it wasn’t hyper-branded or logo’d out. It had a clean design with an interesting message.
Pick Influencers Wisely
Everyone and their dog is an influencer of sorts, right? With the amount of micro and macro influencers growing, it’s becoming increasingly hard to pinpoint strong influencer partnerships for those dabbling in this form of d2c marketing. These partnerships must be intentional, longer-term, and the influencer must genuinely love your product. For example, Victoria Paris is the queen of only doing partnerships with brands she actually loves. She’s extremely vocal about how selective she is with her brand deals. This, in turn, has helped her gain immense trust with her followers. Her followers (also known as ‘Victorians’) have been known to sell out products hours after Victoria posts.
Talk to Your Audience Like a Real Person
Here’s the thing: your audience knows there are people behind your brand. And often, they want that to come through. The rapidly growing brand, We’re Not Really Strangers, has a really interesting d2c email marketing strategy that is essentially based on being as human as possible. They send emails that feel like a text from a friend — Often, minimal punctuation and quite short. This type of language connects the brand to the user in a really human, natural way!
Be Lightning Fast to Respond
The 1-3 business day response time doesn’t cut it in a culture run by instant gratification. If a customer DMs you, they likely are ready to buy, OR if they have an issue, your response time and approach will determine how they view your brand moving forward. Your response times most often correlates directly with conversion. Be quick in all forms of communication, but especially on social media and on-site chats.
Customer Service as Marketing
Speaking of on-site chats, this is one of the closest things you have to in-store associates. Many brands are creating page and product-specific chat campaigns. That way, common questions and concerns surrounding that product and page are addressed in a pop-up chat campaign. Additionally, branding chats as Fit Experts or Fit Finders can be really helpful for fashion brands’ customers to begin viewing these customer service spaces as the equivalent of an in-store sales associate. Ultimately, these proactive strategies drive conversation around your products and make sure that users don’t drop off with unanswered questions.
Most leading D2C brands have some level of an omnichannel approach. Essentially, this gives the customer a seamless journey from social media, to seeing a billboard, to shopping at the brick-and-mortar store. Omnichannel marketing connects the dots for the user, no matter where they are or how they prefer to interact with the brand. Basically, make sure the brand and messaging are on-point at all touchpoints for the customer.
D2C Marketing is always changing. Most of the methods that worked in 2015 no longer resonate with the 2022 customer. But, what always does resonate is a brand that listens to its customers and acts accordingly. At the end of the day, the best strategy is one that takes into account the ever-evolving needs and wants of the customer. Though the core strategy stays the same, the methods are always changing.