Direct to consumer sales are as relevant now as it has never been before. Covid-19 accelerates the rise of direct to consumer (D2C) businesses and companies that previously haven't even thought of going online were forced to reconsider their attitudes. This is the second part of the series of D2C articles, where we will break down strategies of top D2C companies that helped them see the success quite fast. We recommend you to check out the first article Direct to consumer business model: top-performing strategies. Though these could be analyzed separately. This piece would have insight rather on practical cases.
Direct to consumer marketing: Examples of successful strategies by popular brands
We will go through the brands’ D2C strategy examples across different industries. Before checking out, we recommend you to check out the first part from this article series Direct to consumer business model: top-performing strategies. Though this piece could be analyzed as a separate full material. We will be analyzing rather practical examples of successful strategies by popular brands in the following categories:
- Healthcare (CBD industry)
DTC (aka. D2C) businesses are directly communicating with their customers through social media and D2C mobile apps. Integrating mobile apps into your direct to consumer business model allows retrieving the first-hand valuable data. That could be customers’ insights on a product, their response to discounts and special offers, etc. Today’s technology actually allows to track every part of communication with a customer and take that valuable information into analysis for further improvement and innovations.
What is that main thing shoppers have with them almost 24/7? Mobile phones, of course. Getting push messages from a brand doesn’t look any different than receiving the one from your boyfriend, mom, or a friend. It all pops up where it is perfectly noticeable. This gives a brand kind of a personal touch.
You can use data in the customer search and buying history (or any other interaction with your brand inside an app or platform) to predict buyer’s intention and make more fitted product recommendations.
Example of a successful direct to consumer FASHION brand
Warby Parker, an eyewear D2C brand and one of the pioneers in D2C model, knows how challenging it is to make people buy eyeglasses without trying on a number of choices before finding that right one. The company found its answer to the issue. On their website they are making a great deal for customers: try 5 frames at home for free.
There’s another big challenge for such type of D2C ecommerce companies. How to help their customers choose the right lenses? They knew that if they would go to the optician, more chances they would choose the eyeglasses at the same place. Warby came up with a solution: a mobile app, which tests your vision, and then the in-house doctor will revue results.
One more mobile app up there to make a choice easier and more fun: Virtual try-on. Plus, what Warby Parker made, they used a user-generated content marketing strategy. Shoppers were posting pictures and videos on social media of them fitting on their home try-on kit, and that went viral pretty quickly. And people were eager to get some attention as well, like, why not to benefit from showing off on a platform with a half a million of subscribers? Bonus: it’s free, for both parties.
They are keeping it maximum close to the buyers with their tone of voice through ecommerce website, mobile apps and social media platforms. They are quirky and bold. And that’s what attracts.
The company also appeals to Gen Z and Millenials by being socially conscious. For every purchased pair of glasses, they would donate one pair to a person in need.
D2C social media marketing. Direct to consumer companies are all about the story and the whole lifestyle. They are selling the way of life, rather than tossing a product directly into the customer’s face. It seems like they say “We feel you” or “Been there” through social media platforms, like Instagram, Facebook Shop (launched this week, 20th of May 2020), Snapchat, or Pinterest (where you can actually integrate your ecommerce website and sell directly from those networks). The first intention of people scrolling through soc.media is not a purchase. And that is the main perk. A DTC brand can naturally integrate into its customer’s journey right where their genuine interest dwells. The core of their desires and challenges. How exactly? For instance, by offering everyday guidance and support for their routine. Being a Guide or Mentor whom shoppers trust. Some brands are turning their shoppers into brand’s ambassadors to spread a personal story of how the product helped them and why they love it.
Example of successful direct to consumer HEALTHCARE market
Kannaway, the first company to begin research on the potential benefits of the cannabis Sativa plant. The company sells CBD based products as health supplements mainly. CBD is an oil extracted from hemp. Just to clear things out, hemp is not the same as marijuana (which contains THC, an element that gets you “high”), where its genetic brother hemp cannabis doesn’t have it. The CBD oil provides a natural way for treating a number of ailments and diseases: acne, chronic pain, addiction, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, PTSD, OCD, diabetes, and even cancer and Alzheimer’s, but there’s much more to it. Since CBD is becoming a widely accepted substance step by step, more entrepreneurs are catching a train.
In this specific field, it is especially important to set a transparent direct to consumer communication. There is still research going on, and people are not yet ready to fully accept the product — simply because of the lack of knowledge or being misinformed. And the plant itself is still stigmatized.
Kannaway D2C company was the first to address the United Nations & World Health Organization about CBD and in 2018 was the first direct sales company to offer CBD products to European markets.
The company managed to be the first CBD company to be listed in PDR (Prescriber’s Digital Reference), which is great in terms of D2C marketing. Being listed in this free drug search tool allows a company to get in front of the potential target audience. Take the fact that PDR has its D2C mobile app, sends monthly e-newsletters with drug updates, email alerts on drug safety and you’ll see the point. The system is free, and has been integrated into some electronic health record (EHR) systems.
Here’s how customers see Kannaways’s Pure Gold ™ on PDR. The company provides extensive product information with product image, product description, class of a healthcare product, storage, drug interaction, food and herb interactions, mechanism of action, common brand names, how it is supplied, ingredients and supplements facts, dose recommendations with dosing considerations, missed and overdose information, considerations and precautions, manufacturing information accompanied with a table showing the flow of industrial hemp manufacture. There’s also info on clinical trials of the substance and references to a number of materials and researches.
On their ecommerce website Kannaway builds an image of everyday wellness and describes their products to the customer as a healthy way of life. By giving direct situations where people can benefit from the product, the company manages to make its D2C marketing personalized and humane, and lets people visualize the results.
The website itself is very user-friendly and adapts to any region and language. On a product detail page itself you will find clear product image, product description, ingredients, usage and lab results. As this is a non-medical product, a company openly puts a disclosure that it doesn’t guarantee treating certain illnesses and that certain people better refrain themselves from using it.
Kannaway’s website also provides a great customer journey by allowing each shopper to make their own accessibility adjustments, like font size, content scaling, color, mute sounds, hide images and so on. A big + for the company for the UX.
What else would make customers choose to directly purchase from the manufacturer? The company gives free access to the research, keeps its customers informed on industry news, success stories, guides through all the steps of its product manufacturing, consumption, and benefits. Kannaway also holds webinars, different kinds of retreat programs and has its own Academy in various cities of the world, giving lectures on hemp science, marketing materials and tools on a product and more. Besides those activities, the company shows a devotion to its craft and taking care of people by arranging donations to ECHO, an independent, nonprofit and charitable organization connecting special case sick children and families with the healing properties of cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), and financial aid services. Everyone can go on Kannaway's website and buy from 5 to 100 euros which will go to charity.
Example of successful direct to consumer technology companies
Pioneers in D2C, Dyson Ltd. is a tech company, specializing mainly in vacuum cleaners, heaters, bladeless fans, hand dryers, etc. The history of a company goes back to 1978. But the first success came a bit later. Big manufacturers like Hoover seen a threat in their inventions, so the founder was failing to find a licensee in the US and UK. But in 1993, a Japanese company licensed Dyson’s vacuum cleaner design and used it to build the G-force, It was a peculiar product for those years: a vacuum cleaner that could turn into a table. Pretty handy, as it could save space in the small Japanese houses. It was sold for $2,000 and Dyson used this money to set up his own company.
Thanks to TV advertising campaigns, Dyson make its appearance on the UK market as a direct to consumer company. The success of a product itself was in the uniqueness. They had the first vacuum cleaner that didn’t require regular purchases of replacement bags. In 2014, Dyson launched a new invention: "360-eye" robotic vacuum cleaner. Quite of a tech: it features 360 degrees mapping and scanning for navigation, and can be controlled through the user interface through Android or iOS app.
Now, it is a successful DTC company, selling both from their website and Amazon. Learn more about top DTC strategies in our article.
Being direct to consumer company, they also benefited from selling both at Amazon and their website. But the situation turned upside down. “You can’t tell the brand story the way you want … regardless of what brand you own,” said Hellberg, a regional creative director for Dyson in Europe, about their experience on Amazon. So this year 2020 the brand actually started pulling itself out of the marketplace. Dyson realized that they no longer want to depend on the infrastructure provided on big marketplaces like Amazon.
When people make a search, it will give them Amazon in the first place. And a brand does not want to rely on how the marketplace showcases its product information. Besides, Amazon’s algorithms work that way, that they could even direct to other sellers offering the same/similar product, but not the one from the manufacturer.
Their partnership with Amazon didn’t give marketing executives the control over sales and brand image they wanted to have. As a result, the tech company now wants to concentrate on direct to consumer opportunities with other retailers and on their ecommerce website. This would help a company to better understand shopping preferences of their customers.
Example of successful direct to consumer BEAUTY brands
Glossier cosmetics company. Their slogan is: “Glossier is a people-powered beauty ecosystem”. It’s founder Emily Weiss says that around 90% of their customers come to them through word of mouth on social media.
How does the Glossier brand interact with their customers/followers? First, their Instagram account doesn’t even look as if they are to sell you something. They offer makeup routine advice, video tips on skincare, and general wellbeing. Bet you’ve realized already, that they are using influencers marketing and quite intensely. And it’s just a casual conversation between girlfriends or the personal cosmetologist you trust. Here also goes gift ideas, horoscopes — everything that works for the target audience. The company also isn’t afraid to reveal some touching info from the inside: posting a picture of their communications manager and her mom posted on a Mom’s day, as an example. Sharing family values makes the brand tone of voice welcoming and something that feels so close. It’s a personal touch and ability to relate and sympathize what draws customers to DTC brands like this, and not to Amazon or eBay.
Do not forget about the marketing value of blogging as well. After all, Glossier Inc. started with a basic beauty routine tips blog by a 29 y.o. New Yorker, who later found a multimillion-dollar direct to consumer company. What’s the success story? She has been genuinely putting up advice for those who needed and eventually formed the whole buying audience, or kind of a community, and voila. Do not ever tell that blogging doesn’t work. It just takes time and a personal touch to grow (with) your audience.
Example of successful direct to consumer FOOD brands
This month, May 2020, PepsiCo launched direct to consumer websites for its brands. PantryShop.com and Snacks.com appeared on the radars of DTC world to let shoppers order some of the company’s brands online and have them shipped directly to their homes. And again, it’s not just selling snacks: they are giving out a mission, and aiming to take care of people who found themselves locked down at homes.
Coronavirus lockdown has pushed many brands to take initiative and provide better ecommerce experiences to its customers. Online sales have risen, and this is especially true for the grocery industry. PepsiCo arranged some of its products in kits, which come in standard ($29.95) and family packs volumes ($49.95), which were created based on affinity research aimed to meet the needs of Americans staying at home during the lockdown. The company made a free of charge delivery as well, while they are not compromising on speed (packs are promised to come within 2 business days).
Now the PepsiCo devoted customers, who didn’t find its product in stores or supermarkets someday, would easily go to their D2C website and get all stuff delivered right to their doorstep. Win-to-win strategy? Will we see more manufacturers follow this route?
If you will fail at setting the right infrastructure and logistics for the direct selling, you risk blowing your brand’s equity.
Direct to consumer companies should make an accent on education, transparency, and the quality of product data, and easy access to information. And a story, the “we feel you” and “we are here to make life easier for you” mode and real value.
Direct to consumer strategy allows brands to get full control over the user experience, and customer contact information: and use it to gain return customers and get some loyal ones, and grow a community that shares the same vision. Though a quality super awesome product is not a guarantee for effective direct to consumer sales. Experiment with D2C marketing and with technologies like D2C mobile apps that give them easy access to all the product information. Cut a distance between a brand and a customer by rewarding shoppers with loyalty programs and giving them the ability to share their own creativity. Make sure your product is understood correctly. Invest time and efforts to create proper product detail pages, toss every type of relevant information which will make it easier to make a buying decision. After all, content is a king, as they say (who are they? The big successful ecommerce brands). And we are not getting tired of reminding brands to invest in quality product content. And in case there's a need to transfer it between the systems that demand different data formats — to consider automating product content delivery.