As the direct-to-consumer (D2C) movement rolls on with ever-increasing momentum, a few clear brand engagement strategies and successful trends are emerging.
E-commerce may have connected us to the entire world transactionally, but it may not have connected us socially, which has left an unfulfilled need for us as social creatures. It’s this specific void that the most engaged and popular emerging brands seem to have targeted.
By treating their customers as a community and allowing them to engage with their brand in both the digital and real-world spheres, current outstanding D2C brands are tapping into a generational longing for connectivity and a place for their thoughts and feelings to matter. The magic is in coupling the accessibility and efficiency of online shopping with the tangible, memorable effect of real-world experience.
Strategic Retail Partners
For some brands, the key to cultivating a strong brand identity lies in intelligent partnership choices in retail and distribution. In addition, brands with strategic growth plans understand when and how to capture and utilize that all-important first-party customer data. As thoughtfully curated companies optimize their messaging and build rapport among loyal buyers, their appeal increases among larger shares of consumers within their vertical.
Now is the time to cherry-pick channels and major wholesale retail partnerships. Depending on your business model, exclusivity could be appealing, as is the potential for entering new markets by pairing up with a major player in a fresh geography. Getting this right can allow brands to tap into the customers who are the perfect fit and grow a wider community through positive association.
With the ridiculous traffic and service provided by Amazon, eBay and other online marketplaces, modern brands would be foolish not to explore these types of potential revenue-generating streams. Particularly early on in the growth journey, the visibility awarded to high-performing products is unparalleled.
For a slightly more cultured approach, sites such as Shop.com, Curated by Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters have long-standing appeal, stronger brand recognition and more tailored marketing. Being prominent on these sites provides a greater level of trust in your brand, as well as the ability for consumers to price compare and differentiate between similar labels. The pressure is on to stand out.
“Shop our Instagram” is now on almost every fashion site, and “Shop Now” is on almost every fashion site’s Instagram page. In terms of harnessing the engaged consumer base on social media, this must be one of the most profitable innovations. It has allowed the “social” activity of scrolling your feed to become a commercial opportunity for the retailers. The ability to shop while consuming social media feeds provides a transition to the physical product for the consumer, who begins to anticipate receiving the item before an upcoming event, party or meeting.
In terms of blending the digital and real-world, a successful pop-up is an ultimate goal. Most e-commerce-first brands will never previously have been sold in stores, and certainly not had their own brick-and-mortar shops. However, through the physicalization of their digital world, even just for one day, they can access and engage online followers in a very real, very tangible way, and dramatically heighten the community vibes.
Someone once said a pop-up should “feel like walking into that brand’s Instagram page.” Allowing buyers to see the products, try them on, and then order online for home delivery is an exceptional way for brands to win new local customers and then take them from the real world to online, while catering to long-term fans who are now both digital followers and real-world advocates for the brand.
Blog post by Leo Connolly, Global Marketing Lead at Peoplevox, part of The Descartes Systems Group. When he isn’t creating e-commerce, fulfillment and warehousing content for the 10x Club (Peoplevox’s ‘inside track for ambitious brands’ YouTube channel), he can be found on the golf course.