After a lot of bad decisions, poor partnerships and failed opportunities, some of the biggest brands we grew up with are no longer standing. For my kids, the toy store is now Target or Rite Aid, not just Toys“R”Us. Yet FAO Schwarz, which was founded in 1862, is still a synonym for toy store for children of all ages in New York City.
What’s the difference? When retailers used to build their brands, their brick-and-mortar buildings were hyperfocused on the communities where they were located. Things changed rapidly, however, and many struggled to find and follow the right trends.
Enter direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, which often sell a single item or set of related items and are centered on trends and, often, experiences. Brands like Brooklinen and Bombas work to create experiences online through curated products, exclusive sales, and authentic communication. These DTC brands are thriving because they’ve made experience paramount. These four strategies can help traditional retailers do the same:
1. Conform to what customers expect.
In a recent consumer intelligence survey, 73 percent of consumers said experience was a major factor in their purchasing decisions. For DTC brands, that experience is typically see something you like, click on it, and buy it with no hassle.
Your customers expect more, but you can start by making e-commerce easy and convenient through a well-designed and intuitive website. Then, use consumer data to segment your audience, sales data to determine what products they buy, and social media analytics to determine how to advertise to them directly.
2. Go back to e-marketing’s roots.
Some companies believe email is a dead medium, but the data says otherwise. Salesforce recently reported that email marketing still has “an average ROI of 3,800 percent.” In other words, every dollar you invest in a good email results in an average of $38 in sales.
Yet emails work only when they’re accepted. Tone down the sales brochures and speak about your customers’ concerns and communities, or share helpful tips about their purchases. They’ll enjoy receiving and reading your emails and will be more likely to take advantage of the occasional sale or special if that’s not the only thing they receive.
3. Learn to read into the numbers.
As a traditional retailer, you likely have loads of customer data at your disposal. Before you can effectively leverage data, you have to respect what it represents. You might be accustomed to using your data to find out what works now, but DTC companies know it can be much more valuable than that.
Companies like Brooklinen use data to determine what’s working now as well as how that could be applied to future strategies. The brand pulls customer interaction data and uses it to continually test landing pages, segmented emails and marketing channels, as well as to help recommend new products to returning customers.
4. Focus on engaging consumers.
Sure, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are popular and successful ways to generate buzz and boost revenue, but your strategy should mainly be to engage consumers — not just to get their money. That’s not to say that you should abandon all sales and promotions and start from scratch; you just need to come up with some new ways to draw consumers’ attention.
Bombas, for example, touts its "one for one" strategy: one pair purchased equals one pair donated. The company recently started emphasizing that, with customers’ help, it has donated 10 million pairs of socks. That strategy helps customers feel like they’re actually making a difference, acting as an incentive to make future purchases.
DTC brands can create and sell a single product or service, advertise it on social media to only consumers who would be interested, and thrive off that model for years. That’s not to say that, as a retailer, you need to downsize your inventory to a single item. However, the premise is an excellent one: Recognize your audience, cater to their needs, and make their experience just as convenient and enjoyable.
Zach Morrison, CEO of Elite SEM, has more than 12 years of digital marketing experience with core expertise spanning paid search, SEO, display and social advertising, shopping, and conversion rate optimization.
Zach Morrison, CEO of Elite SEM, has more than 12 years of digital marketing experience with core expertise spanning paid search, SEO, display and social advertising, shopping, and conversion rate optimization. At Elite SEM, Zach is responsible for overseeing the entire agency from strategy and execution to day-to-day operations and oversight of all divisions, while playing a key role in business development and client advocacy. Zach regularly takes on a consultant-like role with clients, helping to sharpen their overall strategy and planning, beyond digital marketing initiatives. In addition to his work at Elite SEM, Zach provides thought leadership to many leading publications such as Forbes, Mashable, MediaPost, American Express Open Forum, PPC Hero, and SEMPRO. Zach has also been an adjunct instructor at NYU and a featured speaker at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Grovo Expert Series, Search Engine Strategies conferences, eTail, and the Online Marketing Institute. He has served as a member of Google Remarketing & Display Council, Google Mobile Champion Team, and Kenshoo Agency Council.