Amid all of the uncertainty we’re facing in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, one thing is crystal clear: your target consumer is evolving at a rapid pace, and as business leaders, that means the only choice you have is to evolve with them.
The most successful specialty brands and businesses will modernize through the pandemic and recession, and that means leveling up how you reach, engage, nurture and convert your target shopper. Today, that means investing in e-commerce and moving to a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business strategy.
Store closures and stay-at-home orders have created a surge in e-commerce which is forcing many brands and retailers to find new channels for selling. Adobe Analytics reports that e-commerce sales are up 55% year-over-year for the first seven months of 2020. Online sales in 2020 are slated to surpass the total online sales in 2019 by Oct. 5 – well before the holiday season.
In addition, Retail Touchpoints reports 67% of shoppers expect to make their holiday purchases online to avoid crowds and exposure to COVID. The surge in e-commerce has been met with an increase in brands and retailers moving to a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model, much like Warby Parker, Everlane, Outdoor Voices and other successful DTC startups.
Insider Intelligence forecasts DTC e-commerce sales will grow by 24%, to $18 billion in 2020, an increase from $14 billion in 2019. Investing in e-commerce and a DTC strategy is no longer a nice to have, it is a must have. When done well, launching DTC will raise the level of traction through all of your channels. Benefits can include:
- Fresh, new content to engage your consumer
- Data on your target consumer
- Flexible launch schedule
- Stronger consumer retention and brand loyalty
So, how do you shift from direct-to-market to a consumer-focused, DTC strategy?
Reconsider + Reframe
Moving to DTC represents a paradigm shift that has been shaping our recent past – and that’s been accelerated by COVID-19’s impact on consumers and how we serve them. Not all facets of yesterday’s go-to-market playbook will go away, but we have to recalibrate the process and lead with what works for the consumer instead of what works for the point of distribution.
By changing your focus, you have an opportunity to recruit more brand fans, educate and nurture them, and empower them to shop where they want, when they want. That’s the heart of the change. Now is a good time to ask yourself:
- In your business and for your brand, how can you re-approach and re-engineer how you launch products to your consumers?
- How do you evolve your marketing calendar to have multiple direct-to-consumer launches a year?
Tips for Taking the Plunge
DTC is far beyond just selling from your website. It is about a brand creating orchestrated experiences–product, operations, marketing, sales–all of these must be aligned and beholden to the needs and wants of a very specific consumer, which in many cases, calls for an up-leveled organizational-wide approach.
The below list includes ideas for you to consider in how to evolve your own launches. And remember, you don’t have to be launching a new product to take these into consideration. You can be announcing a new partnership, service, athlete, CSR initiative, technology, etc.
- Surround these launches with assets like ambassadors and athletes, storytelling, cause marketing, and disruptive launch stunts – which are great for generating content.
- Consider how you would merchandise your new product, then expand on that and create a brand experience that literally brings your brand to life.
- Consider bringing in media and retailers, as well as consumers, to this “event” or launch (virtual or IRL). If you’re working with a retailer, equip them with verbiage and images for a newsletter that they can send to their customer base.
- Make it easy to create and share user-generated content (UGC). This is a low hanging fruit, and your brand fans and followers will likely be eager to jump on board.
- Take a page from the playbook of the online marketer – use the activation (or launch) to grow your audience. Consider what the ideal touchpoints are to capture emails.
Now it’s your turn. As you start to craft your DTC strategy, think about:
- What do you need to get there?
- How will you communicate this to your team?
- What systems and processes can be put in place for this to go from idea to action?
Kristin Carpenter founded Verde Brand Communications after a decade-long journalism career, working on staff for major consumer lifestyle magazines, business and trade titles. Verde turns 20 years old in 2021, and Kristin now serves as CEO of Verde, directing strategy for the agency.