For centuries, the ebb and flow of commerce stuck to one familiar formula:
Producers sell to retailers. Retailers sell to consumers.
But the internet rewired that supply chain muscle memory in the span of a few decades. Now producers can head to a digital storefront and go straight to the source.
Direct to the consumer. And statistics show that’s just what consumers want.
Here are some DTC marketing tips to get in front of prospective customers and convince them you’re the company they want to engage with.
DTC Marketing Meaning
DTC marketing, also known as direct to consumer or D2C marketing, is how businesses reach and sell to customers directly.
Here’s a primer on the D2C meaning for some background.
Direct to Consumer Selling & Marketing
A direct to consumer sales strategy differs from traditional customer acquisition. It's less about what's convenient for the retailer and more about what's convenient for the consumer. It's a long-game, in that sense. You invest in a good experience up front and it pays off in the end. In fact, many businesses find that these direct to consumer selling rules pay off over and over. That's the power of building a relationship.
Rule #1: Take Advantage of the 1-on-1 Conversation
There’s no distributors or retailers to screw up your mission statement, sales pitch, or value props. You’re in complete control of how your brand communicates to customers.
It’s just you and your prospect.
Here are some stats that drive home just how important this conversation is.
- 94% of people say they’re more loyal to a brand that’s completely transparent (Label Insight)
- 89% of shoppers are loyal to brands that share their values (Fundera)
- 94% of people say they’re very likely to recommend a brand they feel an emotional connection with (Gensler)
DTC marketing allows companies the chance to have meaningful, emotional conversations directly with potential customers. Today’s consumers generally try to make buying decisions that align with their values.
You must communicate your values and establish an emotional connection. It’s the #1 way to win customers today and this is the #1 rule for a reason.
Rule #2: They’re Users, Not Customers
Here’s another telling statistic, this time from Invesp:
77% of the time end-consumers engage with brands, it’s for help, information, or guidance.
It’s not for sales.
DTC marketing requires a fundamental shift in how businesses see customers. They shouldn’t see them as customers at all, but users.
Lowell Putnam, CEO of fin-tech company Quovo, puts it thus:
“Direct to consumer brands market their products as goods a customer uses repeatedly and develops a relationship with, rather than a one-time transactional purchase.”
Make it easy for your customers to get the information, assistance, and guidance they need. And the more performant your brand will be in the long run.
And that type of content will come naturally to your brand when you start seeing your potential customers and potential long-time users. What type of content and experiences would a long-time user need? Create it.
This is how a monthly coffee subscription views their customers, and plan their coffee marketing accordingly. Wildly successful D2C companies like Dollar Shave Club and BarkBox, too. And it’s working out pretty well for them.
Rule #3: Scale Your 1-on-1 Conversations
This is the cosmic struggle. You want to deliver meaningful content to users, but you need to do it en masse. And sometimes mass gets in the way of meaning.
The best way to scale meaningful conversations as a business is with earned and shared media via direct to consumer digital marketing. That’s primarily blogs and social media.
Social media is the internet’s version of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s intimate, trusted, and curated.
Here’s an example:
Pinterest is becoming a huge player in DTC marketing.
B2B businesses looking for DTC wins can leverage in-store browsing because Pinterest is a digital medium. It can work as a digital storefront, effectively.
And the vast majority of Pinterest’s searches are non-branded. People aren’t on Pinterest typing in Dyson vacuum cleaners. They’re typing in cool vacuum cleaners.
Goodbye, barrier to entry. Hello, discoverability.
Rule #4: Collect and Use Data
There are two ways that the DTC business model encourages the collection of consumer data.
First, with DTC, the only thing between a sale and a consumer is a website. That means user metrics like Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Conversion Rate are all trackable. As you monitor how users behave on each web page, you can tweak your site to get the metrics you want.
BlueCart’s Digital Storefront helps hospitality businesses do exactly that.
And, secondly, companies can just straight up ask consumers for feedback when they have a good relationship with them. Follow-up emails, post-purchase surveys, and easy-to-find customer support provide a steady stream of front-line feedback.
Your proximity to customers in DTC marketing is valuable, so long as you listen to it.
What Is Direct to Consumer Advertising?
In general, advertising is building brand awareness, while marketing is building the entirety of the sales funnel, brand included.
There are some B2B companies out there that don’t have the ability to sell directly to customers. They can’t build a sales funnel. They can only build brand awareness.
The classic example of this, and the most prevalent example of DTC advertising today, is the pharmaceutical industry.
Think of a subscription drug, for example. You’ll see a commercial for it on TV, but you can’t go out and buy it. The direct to consumer advertising is being used only to encourage interaction. Between you and the intermediary you can “buy” the product from: your doctor.
Direct to Consumer Trends
Here are some DTC trends to be aware of. A lot of companies are killing it with these tactics, so it’s worth paying attention to.
McKinsey found that 15% of modern shoppers have signed up for one or more recurring subscriptions.
Think of businesses like Blue Apron, Ritual, and NatureBox. You pay monthly for a recurring shipment sent straight to your door.
And that shipment all depends on preferences you indicate before signing up.
Here’s a great graphic from the McKinsey study showing why consumers continue with subscriptions:
Personalization is the most important factor here. And the DTC subscription model has that in spades. If you’re looking for a tried-and-true way to curate and scale meaningful experiences, check out subscription boxes (see what is a subscription box) or a kitting process.
Traditional retail has had a tough last decade. 29 large retailers filed for bankruptcy in 2020 alone.
But there's a trend that contradicts the so-called "retail apocalypse."
Casper started out selling mattresses online, direct to consumers. They’ve got around 60 DTC retail stores now. Everlane has 60, too. Warby Parker has 64.
These companies disrupted the traditional retail supply chain. Why are the voluntarily embracing something they objectively improved on? Because they’re doing it differently.
To established DTC companies, brick-and-mortar stores become yet another DTC marketing tactic. The stores aren’t for sales. They’ve got their websites for that. The stores are for community building.
Think of their stores as interactive advertising—a place you can go, browse, try things on, and leave. Matt Alexander, CEO of Neighborhood Goods, summed it up perfectly when he told Glossy.co
“It has to be acknowledged that many customers are going into stores but end up purchasing online. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the burden falls on retailers to build a store that exists for more than just the transactional piece of the relationship. It’s almost like an insightful billboard."
DTC retail brick-and-mortar locations become no-pressure environments that reinforce a brand’s values and the customer experience. And the impression they make usually lasts long enough for someone to go home and sign online.
It seems, then, that the future is starting digital then expanding into DTC retail. Not the other way around.
DTC Marketing Is the Future
Let’s take a look into the future, shall we?
Let’s just hop into the ChronoPeeker 3000, flip this switch, and…
Wow, look. Here we are in the future. And look at all the businesses! They’re operating with higher margins and lower prices because they’ve eliminated needless supply chain intermediaries.
All thanks to the ever-growing level of connectivity of humanity.
Jokes aside, the forces that rendered the traditional business model suboptimal are not slowing down any time soon.
Businesses bringing their sales and marketing directly to consumers is the future because it’s less expensive and more curated. It's also much easier to work on cross selling.
Direct to consumer selling is a win-win if there ever was one.
One thing your business can do right now to get in front of a trend that’s sure to sweep traditional commerce under the rug? Sell directly to people online. And if you’re in the DTC food and beverage industry, the BlueCart Digital Storefront does it for you.