COVID-19 has been blamed for a lot of things but to the DTC industry, it’s getting a lot of credit for bolstering sales. Global PR firm Diffusion has been tracking consumer trends since 2018, and reported recently that 2020 saw consumer appetites for DTC brands escalate. The firm’s 2021 Direct-to-Consumer Purchase Intent Index reported that two in five Americans are now familiar with DTC and that 69% of them made at least one DTC purchase in the past year.
Why the Popularity?
Pandemic quarantines may have had a role in the DTC rise, but 44% of those polled also said they believe DTC brands are of higher quality. In addition they said DTC prices are lower than traditional brands. Another 23% felt that DTC brands were cool and believed them to be authorities on what was trending.
What Role For Social Activism?
Diffusion found that Americans, particularly younger ones, expect their brands to be responsible corporate citizens. 31% said they purposefully patronized brands that supported social, equality, sustainability, and environmental causes they cared about. This was true for both traditional and DTC merchants. Not surprisingly, adults between the ages of 18 and 34 ranked highest, with 48% feeling strongly about those values.
As in all marketing today, connecting directly with customers is critical. This is even more important in DTC because, unlike a retail store, that digital connection is the only link between the brand and its customers. This direct channel can foster long-lasting relationships through quick and actionable tactics that make it easy for customers to navigate and purchase.
Several things are important for brands going into DTC. The first is creating a brand identity. This is where New York-based Warby Parker excelled by offering consumers the ability to try on eyeglasses virtually. The company also landed nearly $300 million in venture capital funding.
DTC consumers are familiar and comfortable with online shopping. Use that venue to the brand’s advantage by employing novel, catchy and shareable ads. Mike Dubin, the founder of another popular DTC firm, Dollar Shave Club, became an overnight cause celebre simply by promoting his own brand. Influencers with interests and followers along the brand’s line can also be invaluable. When that’s not possible or affordable, partnering with regular loyal customers can also be effective.
Personalization is as important in DTC as it is in other digital marketing. Keep in mind the reasons why DTC rose to popularity. A short questionnaire that results in products tailored to consumer interests reinforces the belief that DTC brands are cool and high quality. Samples and/or special offers that complement what was already purchased are appealing as well.
AR experiences, like Warby Parker’s, that empower prospective customers to try products out before purchasing them, are popular. Besides encouraging sales, they often result in word-of-mouth advertising for consumers with the same needs or desires. What’s also effective is a “call now” widget at the bottom of the page that encourages visitors to call if they have any questions.
Last But Not Least
Two old standbys, emails and subscriptions, are still popular and valuable to DTCs. Wayfair increases its sales by sending emails to customers who just made a purchase. Those emails suggest one or more items that complement what a customer just purchased. For DTC startup Barkbox, a dog treat and chew service, their monthly box subscription service has amounted to 10 million boxes and counting.