Chances are that if you’re looking at this, you don’t need me to tell you how important it is for a DTC digital agency to guide direct-to-consumer brands on how to approach a solid digital strategy.
But maybe you’re a little unsure of how a DTC digital agency actually develops a strategy to strengthen a direct-to-consumer’s brand’s image and recognition or why it’s so urgent for brands today to think about a digital strategy if they haven’t before. There’s good news: this guide into the DTC/D2C digital strategy serves to give you a comprehensive understanding of success in connecting with consumers and how to set a brand apart from the rest.
Here’s G & Co.’s take on DTC Digital Marketing. G & Co. is a full-service UI/UX design and development eCommerce agency. As a full-service digital design firm, they do everything from UI/UX for mobile apps and brand identities to marketing websites and enterprise software, having a specialized focus on direct-to-consumer (DTC) and luxury brands.
To start off, the direct-to-consumer (DTC/D2C) strategy is one of the most popular low barrier-to-entry and digital innovation strategies today. What direct-to-consumer means is essentially that: manufacturers and CPG brands sell directly to the consumer without having to negotiate with a retailer, reseller, or any other middle man to get their product on the market.
The advantages of the DTC/D2C strategy include competitive pricing, much to the joy of consumers, and CPG brands and manufacturers having a direct line of contact with consumers to get a better understanding of who they are, being able to cut out expenses a wholesaler-retailer partnership requires and having the freedom to freely experiment with new product releases and test them with a segment of their consumers to gain feedback and iterate.
The difference between B2C (business-to-consumer) and DTC is that while direct-to-consumer manufacturers and brands sell directly to consumers, B2C involves a retailer party to sell a manufacturer’s products to customers.
Think of Walmart, Target, Kmart, and any other big-box retailer store that sells products from several different manufacturers. In this scenario, a consumer has plenty of choices to make about what product they’ll purchase—something manufacturers can’t control.
And this lack of control is a big reason why more brands are opting for a DTC approach now more than ever. With an operation under a manufacturer’s control, they can then manage the customer experience, engagement, and brand positioning instead of the retailers themselves.
A good DTC digital agency will tell you that a DTC/D2C strategy consists of the usual promoting of a brand’s wares through online means (after all, direct-to-consumer in itself relies on the internet to conduct business). This includes social media posting and marketing, ranking for website traffic, optimizing for search engine results (SEO), email marketing, or any direct content production (for instance, videos, newsletters, interviews, etc.).
Of course, a DTC strategy will differ from other brand strategies in that it cuts out the retail middleman to sell straight to the end-consumer, as any DTC digital agency worth its salt should know.
But that doesn’t mean retail has been cut completely out of the equation. What it does mean is that DTC brands will have to take responsibility for everything retail-related within the business in addition to their original manufacturing and fulfillment responsibilities.
If that sounds unappealing, hold on a second—there’s a lot more good to it.
Sure, bearing the weight of added responsibility when brands can continue selling their products to wholesale retailers can come off as unappetizing, but know that there is a reason why plenty of brands are breaking ground with the direct-to-consumer model—plenty of them, in fact.
The first reason is that consumers want to go to the source itself when they’re researching a product or brand rather than going to a retail vendor’s site. Consumers are far more brand-conscious than they were before, and that also means brands have to step up to know what consumers want in a product. Having an ear closer to the ground by owning all parts of the retail operation is what makes DTC brands far quicker to adapt and pivot if needed.
Onto the nitty-gritty stuff. As this guide has established already, going direct-to-consumer means brands take full control and ownership of the end-to-end customer experience.
That doesn’t have to sound like such a burden. In reality, having this control and ownership means manufacturers are free to choose how to market their products and overall brand how they see fit and how it can effectively engage their target audience.
It also means DTC brands have the enormous benefit of choosing how to build and foster their relationships with customers, even choosing who their customers are, and how to deliver value to them.
This newfound freedom opens up the possibility for DTC brands to try any multitude of digital strategies. And of course, it wouldn’t make sense for direct-to-consumer brands, with all of the opportunities presented to them by their cutting out retailer vendors, to use the same marketing strategies before.
Instead, DTC digital agencies should think more about a direct-to-consumer brand’s ideal customer profile and how they can best cater to them and treat them in the way they can appreciate.
This can take on in pushing out high-quality and engaging content, treating consumers with more personalized services, or any other strategy that is more aligned with a brand’s mission. The point is, DTC brands have enormous flexibility to choose how they can connect and engage with consumers than traditional brands.
The first rule when it comes to targeting consumers is that any brand, not just DTC, needs to understand what their customer profile is and what exactly it is that they want in a brand.
Normally, this is a decisive course of action before a brand even rolls out a product, but DTC brands have the upper hand in being able to move swiftly and adjust their product offering or more narrowly designate who is their ideal customer.
Having said that, one of the most popular ways DTC digital agencies can help DTC brands target consumers is through visual and interactive avenues, such as social media and mainstream advertising channels like YouTube or podcasts. The reason being is because most brand-conscious consumers are those who use technology most often. Millennials and Generation Z’s levels of awareness and desire to contribute to brands doing greater good mean more money is being given to those businesses.
An understanding of where DTC brands ought to spend more marketing dollars and how exactly they can make them work will serve to better allocate where most attention should be pointed to in a digital strategy.
And to help direct some of that attention and perhaps pave the way for ideas, here are a few ways in which DTC brands can target consumers to become buyers:
• Producing high quality and creative content
Knowing that the DTC target audience is most active online and receptive to engaging content means that DTC digital agencies should incorporate social media, videos, and viral campaigns as part of a direct-to-consumer brand’s digital strategy.
Remember why people use social media in the first place: to be aesthetically pleased or be entertained. If a brand can successfully produce content that does either of those things or both, then DTC brands are sure to engage with their target audience.
• Invest heavily in new customer acquisition
Given that DTC brands cut out retailer vendors, their exposure to the market can be a big vulnerability. This means it should be a priority for direct-to-consumer brands to find unique ways to get in front of their target audience to shed some of the unfamiliarity.
One good thing shines in this: because DTC brands can clearly define who their customer is, they are able to prospect and allocate more marketing resources to people most likely to purchase from them.
The advanced targeting capabilities on social media advertising platforms give incredible range to DTC brands, enabling them to target audiences with more precision than ever before—more on this further into the guide.
• Emphasize brand loyalty
As much as this guide prioritizes new customer acquisition, the same level of importance should be applied to building brand loyalty.
Ways in which direct-to-consumer brands can rally up consumers and make them loyal patrons are the following:
• Having a great user experience on the native website
You’ll want to ensure that every visitor on your brand site has as exceptional an experience as possible when it comes to landing on the page, navigating, and especially purchasing something. Great experiences beget great relationships.
For brands that are supplementing their traditional retail methods with the direct-to-consumer model, this means making the site anything better than retail vendors can offer so as to encourage more people to buy from the native site than from a third party.
• Running an effective email marketing strategy
Traditional retail strategies don’t offer the kind of flexibility in allowing brands to communicate with consumers. The DTC business model does. This is why we encourage direct-to-consumer brands to take advantage of it.
The beauty of email is in being able to remind consumers to stock up or enticing them with an offer. Remember: in a direct-to-consumer strategy, a brand owns all operational aspects of the consumer experience—including the post-purchase phase.
This means brands have the ability to reach consumers at any point they desire and have complete autonomy over their messaging and optimizing their campaign for further success.
• Boasting solid support and customer service
What implementing direct-to-consumer means for the brands who do it is that they can develop an authentic connection with their customers. This has always been central to this approach. But DTC digital agencies should not mistake this strategy as a purely transactional one, but as a two-way relationship between brand and customer.
Instead, brands should double down on the platforms they already utilize that customers are comfortable and familiar with using to message them and bridge the gap that has long existed between brands and customers. This experience should be consistent and frictionless for end-users.
With the rapid rise of online shopping, more brands are going direct-to-consumer than ever before. What that means about the consumer landscape now is that DTC digital agencies need to help brands start thinking about a tailored digital strategy now if they have not already.
It goes without saying that the direct-to-consumer business model has its great advantages, among them having a better return on digital marketing efforts than traditional retail offers. And with sophisticated tracking capabilities, it has never been easier to measure a campaign’s strength and optimize for future success than it is now.
It’s why so many of the biggest DTC brands today have been early adopters of a digital strategy. The accessibility of the internet allows any business, not just the largest big-box retailers, to target the billions of users online every day.
This guide has already established that brand-conscious consumers are some of the most active people online. And the democratization of the internet allows for any brand, small or large, to target them, effectively disrupting the way traditional business has been conducted.
The time for direct-to-consumer brands to start thinking strategically about digital has come, and it is clear that consumers are buying from the brands that can get their attention and mirror their values. It’s up to DTC digital agencies to help bridge the gap between brands and consumers.
Although the DTC target audience is mostly made up of brand-conscious consumers, the fact is a target audience can vary in age, interest, and a host of other demographic differentials. But one thing remains the same: the digital natives tend to be millennials and Generation Z consumers.
What this means is that the direct-to-consumer market is internet-savvy and likely to use social media. This is where direct-to-consumer brands should dedicate a good amount of attention to. With millions of active users on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, there’s no shortage of ways in which DTC brands can interact with consumers to build brand awareness and communicate with their targeted audience.
The very first thing a DTC brand should know in pursuing a social media strategy is that how it acknowledges consumers and connects with them is far more important than what medium it chooses to adopt. After all, the goal of a social media strategy should be consumer-focused, not platform-focused.
Second, social media is an effective tool to both promote brand imagery and have people speak on behalf of your brand. And although that may seem difficult to do, here are a few ways in which DTC brands can help spur engagement and a loyal following:
• Engage the audience
Social media requires interaction. How you choose to interact and encourage engagement on social media is up to you, but it should always align with what your brand already expresses.
• Cast your reach net
This guide’s mentioned the importance of connection first before platform. Of course, that should always remain true, but don’t mistake that piece of advice as saying “only focus on one platform.”
The reality is, not all social interaction happens on just one platform. There’s plenty of social channels today’s consumers use that each has their unique capabilities and advantages. Just remember that a social media strategy should be personal and platform agnostic.
• Find your micro influencers
While not every brand has an influential heavyweight icon they can easily turn to, micro influencers in your niche can be just as effective.
Through producing high-quality and consistent content, you can engage and encourage interest in avid social media users to promote your brand.
• Show some truth
Brand-conscious consumers love to learn. And if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that memes and infographics have insane share numbers. So long as you can post something that’s sure to bode well with your audience, you can definitely find some success in garnering some interest turn to marketing success.
At its core, an excellent DTC search engine optimization strategy ought to target keywords that are associated with and describe your product while also featuring a thoroughly-optimized website for those keywords.
Do remember that because direct-to-consumer brands struggle with brand awareness in the start, a search engine optimization strategy will have to work to convince prospects at the beginning of their customer journeys. Additionally, DTC brands will need to engage with consumers at different phases in their customer lifecycles.
Ideally, a DTC brand’s SEO strategy should carefully craft content that targets several search terms such that it can convey a message and introduce itself to prospects at the early stage of the customer journey.
How this looks when broken down is this: given that not many people will know of an emerging direct-to-consumer brand, the most valuable search queries are those that are unbranded. These are arguably more important to capture than branded searches, or people who are looking up a product by brand name directly, and are thus familiar with the brand already and closer to making a buying decision.
Why unbranded searches are so powerful in a DTC’s SEO strategy is that these are queries typed in by people who, more often than not, are looking for a product but have not yet made their minds about which brand to choose from.
Of course, because you’re utilizing a search engine for traffic, you will have competitors vying for top spots in order to receive the most visits and, ultimately, the most sales. To work your way to the top and build some brand awareness, a good direct-to-consumer SEO strategy will need to consider the following metrics:
• Organic keywords
Organic keywords are the number of terms your website is ranked for and are most typically listing the top 100 keywords.
• Organic search traffic
Organic search traffic is the monthly estimated visits a website receives for unpaid search results. This means visitors who find a website purely by using a search engine and not by referral or advertisement.
• Domain authority
Domain authority is exactly what it sounds like—a measure of how trustworthy your domain is.
Backlinks are the links from other websites that forward to yours. The higher the number of backlinks a website has, the greater the domain score is.
Each of these is essential to any DTC digital agency’s search engine optimization strategy. By measuring all four metrics, you will be able to easily track your progress and noteworthy trends in need of addressing.
One of the most important aspects of the search engine optimization strategy is that a DTC brand is conscious of its competitors. Going back to the topic of branded and unbranded search queries, a big part of success lies in understanding that the more organic keywords a brand rank for, the higher the organic monthly traffic will be.
The sooner DTC brands understand this, the sooner they can overcome competitors who are fighting over the same organic keywords.
Are shorter or longer keywords better for SEO?
Both short-tail and long-tail keywords have their advantages. Something to keep in mind is that short-tail keywords, since they typically consist of just one or two words, are more general and broad of a search query than long-tail keywords. Short keywords also have more search volume than longer terms, though they have less clear intent—meaning a lower click-through-rate, or the rate at which consumers click on a link vs. consumers who view the result.
Long-tail keywords usually have three or more words in a search term and represent a more specific query. Unlike short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords have a lower search volume, but a higher click-through rate since the results match content with a more specific search.
Therefore, a healthy combination of both short-term keywords and long-tail keywords can help bolster a DTC search engine optimization campaign. More than anything, an understanding that not every consumer will look up the same term will help in drawing out a plan that follows the customer journey.
What this guide means by that is this: consumers at different stages of the customer journey will look up different terms. And though they will differ, the stages will look something like this:
Remember that the generic search terms indicate a consumer does not yet know of your brand but may be interested in your products, and that specific search terms indicate a consumer is close to making a purchasing decision and may be more inclined to buy if they have enough information to make that purchase.
Of course, this background knowledge in search engine optimization is necessary before a DTC brand should consider a more targeted approach. Through organic traffic, a brand can increase brand awareness and therefore lift the efficacy of paid methods, which is the next point this guide addresses.
Once there’s been a good foundation for organic search results, a DTC brand ought to consider PPC campaigns to their digital strategy. Apart from the helpful page indexing powers Google offers, its data gathering tools are an incredibly useful instrument for any brand strategy. The information Google gathers from its users’ interactions, site visits, app usage, location, and searches to determine specific information such as age range, interests, and even income level.
What this means is that a direct-to-consumer brand, say a health and wellness skincare company for women, can use PPC ads to target college-educated women in a high-income city with an interest in beauty it believes is most likely to purchase a package from them. Google Ads go as far as to target people who attended a localized event for an even more specific breakdown of people’s interests. On top of that, PPC campaigns feature demographic targeting to avoid displaying ads to people unlikely to purchase your products for a more optimized spend and return on investment.
With that level of optimization, DTC brands can effectively reach their target audience as narrowly as they choose. Of course, not every person targeted who views an ad will purchase on their first encounter. And that’s why it’s crucial to implement display ads to retarget and remind a user of a product throughout their web search. These display ads can be located on specific sites of your choosing or on domains with certain audience characteristics.
All things considered, the targeting capabilities based on consumer behavior, interests, and demographics provide an incredibly powerful tool for DTC digital agencies to help direct-to-consumer brands reach consumers.
With various methods available for engagement and targeting at your disposal, it’s more pressing than ever to consider what’s right for your digital strategy. Given that direct-to-consumer brands have great flexibility to choose what to amplify their strengths and attributes, what you decide will depend on what set of features and capabilities from the methods this guide discussed apply to your case best.
Fortunately, G & Co. is a full-service DTC digital agency and UI/UX design and development shop. With a specialized focus on direct-to-consumer (DTC), G & Co.’s services range from mobile apps and brand identities to digital marketing and advertising strategy. Through our work with Outdoor Voices, Burrow, and Burberry, our reach and level of experience with luxury brands and emerging disruptive names, we’re confident we can help make your direct-to-consumer strategy a success.
Ready to move forward? Shoot us an email to help you get started.